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31/03/2010

Civil Procedure Rules: 51st update

Spring is in the air and daffodils are blossoming which is usually a sign that an update to the civil procedure rules is in the offing. This year, we are doubly blessed. Parts of both the 51st and52nd updates will come into force over the next week. In this post I will, as usual, focus on changes that are most likely to affect housing practitioners.

Civil procedure watchers will already be aware of the 51st update, which gave brought into force provisions related to the Lugano Convention on enforcement of judgment are already in force in January this year, and February amendments to Part 52 concerning asylum appeals.

The remaining provisions of the 51st update will give us:

  • a new “electronic working scheme” in PD 5C which promises a reduction in the use of dead trees to communicate with the court us;
  • changes in timescales for filing documents before telephone applications
  • updates to the costs practice direction, including the recognition of email as a form of letter
  • the Court of Appeal will get a Master (so it doesn’t feel left out that the High Court has lots) and possibly one or more deputies
  • lots and lots of tidying up.

All of these are due in force on the 6th April, except for the electronic working scheme which starts tomorrow (1st April).

Electronic working

The electronic working scheme is too complex to describe here and at first will only apply to certain kinds of proceedings, namely “the Admiralty, Commercial and London Mercantile Courts, the Technology and Construction Court, and the Chancery Division of the High Court at the Royal Courts of Justice, including in the case of the Chancery Division the Patents Court and the Bankruptcy and Companies courts”. It is certainly worth watching as I am sure the scheme will extend.

It permits most of the steps taken in proceedings, pre-trial, to be taken electronically and allows parties access to the court file in the same way. I look forward to seeing this rolled out to county courts so that the judge has a chance of finding all the papers that have been filed. We’ll see.

Telephone hearings

Where an application is to be determined at a telephone hearing, the application notice must be served 5 days before the hearing, not 3 as at present (PD23A new rule 4.1A). Where that application is on the multi-track a case summary and draft order must be filed no later than 4pm, 2 days prior to he hearing, not on the previous working day as at present. The same time limit applies to documents on which a party intends to rely and to the case summary and draft order where the court has directed that they be filed prior to the hearing.

Costs of email

The Costs Practice Direction now allows emails to be considered in the same way as letters so that “letters out” will include “emails out”. The court is also allowed, in its discretion, to allow solicitors to charge for time spent in the preparation of other electronic communications, provided they properly amount to attendances and the time is recorded. Those of us who spend a lot of our time using a variety of internet tools to communicate with clients will be pleased. There are some more minor changes which those drafting costs bills might like to peruse (for example the disbursement limit in paragraph 32.3 is now £500 not £250).

Tidying up

Notice I referred to PD32A? Thought I had made a mistake? No. The major tidy up is that where there is a PD5B there will also be a PD5A. Practice directions will be numbered more logically. There’s also rather more use of the singular they; further use of helpful cross-referencing and a lot of minor tidying up. It always pleases me that whoever does keep the rules up to date has a neat and tidy mind.

52nd update

But lo! Even before the 51st update had finished taking effect, a 52nd is upon us, coming into effect tomorrow (1st April). Most of it concerns local value personal injury claims in road traffic accidents – important if you are PI practitioner but not for us. The other change is that all references to RSL’s become references to PRPSH‘s.

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