The Jackson reforms aimed to encourage lawyers to comply with Court deadlines and imposed strict penalties on those who do not – most notably penalisation on costs. However, the Civil Procedure Rules, amended as a consequence of the Jackson reforms, now read so that where a rule, practice direction or Court Order specifies the consequences of a failure to comply with a time limit, the time limit cannot be extended save by Court Order.
An example of a consequence of a failure to comply is where a witness statement is not served by the time stated in the case directions; that witness will not be able to give oral evidence at trial.
Whilst designed to increase compliance with time limits and avoid wasted Court time e.g. through re-listing hearings due to directions not being complied with as originally directed, in reality this has led to a huge increase in formal applications to the Court for extensions of time. The need for additional time to comply with directions does not seem to have disappeared simply because the regulatory framework has been amended to clamp down on this issue.
In recognition of the unforeseen administrative burden on the Courts of dealing with the applications for extensions of time, an amendment to the Civil Procedure Rules came into effect on 5 June 2014 which permits parties to agree extensions of time between themselves up to a maximum of 28 days, provided that any Hearing date can be maintained.
If you would like advice regarding civil litigation please contact us.