Civil procedure rules
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The Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) were created under the authority of the Civil procedure act (1997), and give effect largely to the recommendations of the Woolf report. The purpose of the rules is to unify the procedures for civil claims in the High Court, the county courts and, in some cases, in the Civil Division of the Court of Appeal.
The philosophy behind the CPR is set out in Rule 1.1(1) which says that These Rules are a new procedural code with the overriding objective of enabling the court to deal with cases justly. The 'overriding objective' is described in more detail in R1.1(2), which says that dealing with cases justly should include:
- ensuring that the parties are on an equal footing;
- saving expense;
- dealing with the case in ways which are proportionate (i) to the amount of money involved; (ii) to the importance of the case; (iii) to the complexity of the issues; and (iv) to the financial position of each party; ensuring that it is dealt with expeditiously and fairly; and
- allotting to it an appropriate share of the court's resources, while taking into account the need to allot resources to other cases.
R1.2 says that courts must carry out their duties in such a way as to give effect to the 'overriding objective', and R1.3 says that the litigants must do likewise. R1.4 says that courts must 'actively manage' cases, which includes encourage parties to co-operate and to seek Alternative dispute resolution, encouraging settlement, fixing timetables, and dealing with as many issues as possible at the same time.
The Rules in sections 2-73 deal with the substantive procedures that are intended to implement the overriding objective. Each section is accompanied by a Practice direction (PD) (sometimes more than one) which seeks to clarify the application of the Rules in that section. There are also PDs of general applicability in the appendices, even a PD describing the procedure for issuing new PDs.
Some highlights of the Rules include the following.
Litigation as a last resort The new Rules emphasise the fact that litigation is to be seen as a last result, and should only be embarked upon when all other avenues of approach have been explored. There are increased powers to penalize litigants that fail to accept, for example, Alternative dispute resolution strategies where they are appropriate.
Greater co-operation in the pre-action stage Parties are expected to describe the grounds of their cases in much more detail in the pre-action stage. Again, courts are empowered to penalize litigants that fail to co-operate, whether they win or lose the case.
Unification of procedure Claims are now initiated using the same procedure in the High Court and the county courts.
'Part 36 payments' The Rules in Part 36 describe extended procedures for making an offer to settle a case, and these can now be made by the claimant as well as the defendant.
Language Although not specifically mandated in the Rules, use of common English terms is to be preferred over archaic legal terms. So the Rules use the term 'claimant' rather than plaintiff', 'between parties' rather than 'inter partes', etc.