Extensions of time

March 4th, 2016 by James Goudie KC

There is no special rule for public authorities when it comes to applications for an extension of time. The principles applicable derive from the decisions of the Court of Appeal in Mitchell v NGN (2013) EWCA Civ 1537 and Denton v White (2014) EWCA Civ 906.  A Judge must approach an application for relief from sanction in three stages, as follows:-

  1. The first stage is to identify and assess the seriousness or significance of the failure to comply with the rules. The focus should be on whether the breach has been serious or significant. If a Judge concludes that a breach is not serious or significant, then relief will usually be granted and it will usually be unnecessary to spend much time on the second or third stages; but if the Judge decides that the breach is serious or significant, then the second and third stages assume greater importance.
  2. The second stage is to consider why the failure occurred, that is to say whether there is a good reason for it. If there is a good reason for the default, the Court will be likely to decide that relief should be granted. However, even if there is a serious or significant breach and no good reason for the breach, this does not mean that the application for relief will automatically fail. It is necessary in every case to move to the third stage.
  3. The third stage is to evaluate all the circumstances of the case, so as to enable the Court to deal justly with the application. The two factors specifically mentioned in CPR rule 3.9 are of particular importance and should be given particular weight. They are (a) the need for litigation to be conducted efficiently and at proportionate cost, and (b) the need to enforce compliance with Rules, Practice Directions and Court Orders. The Court must, in considering all the circumstances of the case so as to enable it to deal with the application justly, give particular weight to these two important factors. In doing so, it will take account of the seriousness and significance of the breach (which has been assessed at the first stage) and any explanation (which has been considered at the second stage). The more serious or significant the breach the less likely it is that relief will be granted unless there is good reason for it.

In SSHD v Razia Begum (2016) EWCA Civ 122 the Court of Appeal has reaffirmed, at paragraphs 14/15 and 23, that there is no special rule for public law cases.  However, the “importance of the issues to the public at large” can properly be taken into account at the third stage.

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