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Going To Court? Make Sure Everything Is In Order

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If you find yourself going to court for whatever reason, make sure you have complied with all the regulations as it may be a costly error if you have not.

The Courts have traditionally been fairly relaxed about compliance with Court Orders and time limits. That is not to say that if you were in breach of an Order you would not suffer the consequences. However, the Courts have always allowed a certain amount of leeway and failure to meet a time limit or comply with a Court Order might not be as bad as it first appeared. This could be frustrating for the party who was complaining that the other side was in breach but obviously of help if you found yourself in the unfortunate position of being in default.

However, as a result of the judgment in the widely reported case of Mitchell v The News Group Newspapers [2013], the Courts have now made it clear that they will apply a tougher stance on the question of compliance with Court Orders and rules. On 1 April 2013, the amendments to Civil Litigation Procedure Rules, arising from the reports of Lord Justice Jackson, came into force. This included provision that compliance with Court Orders was of paramount importance. The Mitchell case was the first important decision on the impact of the new rules.

You may recall that Mr Mitchell MP was alleged to have been abusive to police officers whilst riding his bicycle out of the House of Commons. This incident turned into to the infamous "Plebgate affair". Mr Mitchell started a libel action against The Sun newspaper in connection with their reporting of the case. As part of the new Civil Procedure Rules, Mr Mitchell's solicitors were required to file a costs budget within seven days of a case management hearing. They failed to do so in time. The sanction for failure to file a costs budget in the Rules was that Mr Mitchell would not be able to recover any of his costs, even if successful, except for the Court fees. A costs budget was filed shortly before the hearing indicating that Mr Mitchell's costs would be around £500,000.

The Judge in the case said as a result of the solicitor's failure to file the budget on time, she was disallowing the costs and ordered that Mr Mitchell would only be able to recover Court fees. The Judge made it clear in her judgment that this was as a result of the tougher stance the Courts are now taking post April 2013. This was a shock, not only to Mr Mitchell's solicitors but also to the profession as a whole and, understandably, the decision was appealed to the Court of Appeal. However, in order to reinforce the tougher stance, the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal and Mr Mitchell has been left with the consequences of his solicitors' default.

It is clear that the Courts are following this decision and anyone involved in Court proceedings cannot now expect to receive relief from the sanctions if they are in default of a Court Order or a procedural rule. There are some exceptional circumstances which may help those in default but these are going to be few and far between.

The Courts have also made it clear that not being represented by a solicitor is not an excuse for being in breach of the Rules. Therefore, if you are involved in any Court proceedings, you will have to be aware of all the Civil Procedure Rules and abide by these as well as any Orders made by the Court. The consequences of failure could be devastating.

Chattertons have a very experienced team of solicitors who are able to deal with all types of disputes and are fully conversant with the Civil Procedure Rules. You can rely on us to ensure that you are properly advised as to the Court's procedures and to ensure that you are complying with everything the Court Orders.

Contact one of our Dispute Resolution team for further information and to discuss your case.