6th Apr 2020

Sarah Wait considers some important urgent and non urgent changes to the CPR, including extensions of time and statements of truth.

Amidst the changes we are all making to the way we work during these challenging times, there have also been some recent key updates to the CPR in relation to extensions of time, statements of truth and the required content of witness statements taken in languages other than English or Welsh.

This newsletter updates you on these amendments to the CPR and also on the ways in which we, the 18 St John Street Chambers Civil team, can continue to provide first class support to you and your clients in the current climate.

Extensions of time – Practice Direction 51ZA

One of the litigation issues brought to the fore by the ongoing COVID19 outbreak, and associated Public Health guidance, is an upsurge in the need for extensions of time and the mechanisms by which these are to be secured.

To that end, a new Practice Direction (PD 51ZA) came into force on 2nd April 2020 which makes temporary provision for parties to agree extensions of time, without the court’s permission. It will remain in force until 30th October 2020.

The major change arising from the new PD is that, pursuant to CPR 3.8, parties may now agree an extension of time of up to 56 days, increased from 28 days, without the permission of the court. Extensions beyond this will require an application to the court, which will be considered on the papers and reconsidered at a hearing in the event of any such application for reconsideration being made.

The PD also provides that, insofar as is compatible with the proper administration of justice, the court will take into account the impact of the ongoing pandemic when considering applications for the extension of time, the adjournment of hearings, and for relief from sanctions.

From a practical perspective, caution ought to be applied when considering making such applications. Despite the turbulent times we find ourselves in, it seems likely that the court will continue to require a thorough and evidence backed account of why such an application is required. Best practice therefore, in the event that the effects of the ongoing pandemic prevents compliance with time limits, is to keep a detailed and contemporaneous record of what difficulties have arisen and what steps have been taken to address them before making an application.

Statements of Truth – Practice Direction 22

On 6th April 2020 amendments to Practice Direction 22 come into force, with the effect that all documents currently required to be verified by a statement of truth must contain the following new wording:

“I believe that the facts stated in this [particulars of claim/defence/witness statement etc] are true. I understand that proceedings for contempt of court may be brought against anyone who makes, or causes to be made, a false statement in a document verified by a statement of truth without an honest belief in its truth.”

Additional amendments to PD 22 require that statements of truth are dated with the date on which they are signed, and statements of truth in relation to witness statements taken in languages other than English and Welsh are drafted in the witness’s native language.

Whilst at first blush the additional wording merely spells out what is already well established, it is more important than ever that your clients carefully and thoroughly read the witness statements drafted on their behalf, and are advised of, and understand, the consequences of making a false statement. With fundamental dishonesty issues becoming ever more prevalent, the court seems likely to take statements of truth more seriously than ever.

Witness Statements – Practice Direction 32

Another key update taking effect on 6th April 20, is to Practice Direction 32, which makes a number of important changes to the required content of witness statements taken in languages other than English and Welsh as well as the amended statement of truth. In short, the new requirements are that witness statements must:

• be drafted in the witness’s own language;
• state how the statement was taken e.g. face to face, by telephone and/or through an interpreter;
• be translated and the original witness statement signed by the translator and filed with the court, along with the translation certified as accurate by the translator; and
• state the date of translation.

These amendments will cause some concern to those litigating Fast Track matters on behalf of clients who do not speak English or Welsh, given the likely high costs involved in obtaining written translations and the non-recoverability of the same under the fixed costs regime, following the Court of Appeal’s decision in Aldred v Cham, in which it was held that such disbursements are not a ‘particular feature of the dispute’ and are therefore not recoverable.

As always, if you require any support or guidance in understanding the practical implications of these recent amendments on your practice, please do not hesitate to contact us.

How we can support you

18 St John Street Chambers is open for business. All members of our civil team are available as normal to provide the same high quality and responsive service, whether by telephone or other means. We are all equipped, trained and available to take instructions in relation to remote hearings using technology including (but not limited to) Microsoft Teams, Skype for Business and Zoom.

We understand the challenges that you, our instructing solicitors, are facing in the current climate and we are here to support you in all matters, ranging from an informal chat about any ‘problem’ files you may have, to providing assistance in using remote hearing technology and everything in between.

Please feel free to contact us on our usual contact details and we will be delighted to assist you.