CPR Rules (Civil Procedure)
Civil procedure rules (CPR) are guidelines which have been established to outline civil procedures which are used by the County Courts, Court of Appeal and the High Court of Justice during civil proceedings throughout England and Wales. The CPR rules apply to all cases held after 26th April 1999.
The purpose of the civil procedure rules is to improve access to justice for the average person, resulting in affordable and faster legal action which is easy to understand for individuals who are not in the legal profession. The new CPR rules began with what was known as an ‘Overriding Objective’ which was developed to provide a framework for behaviour where no specific rules apply or where specific provisions cannot be applied.
The overriding objective was created after a number of reforms and was suggested by Lord Woolf and they state;
The rules now define a procedural code which includes an overriding objective that allows a court to manage cases at a proportionate cost and in a fair manner.
In order for a case to be processed fairly, the court must ensure that both parties are treated equally, costs are saved where possible and cases should be dealt with in such a way that is fair in relation to the sum of money involved, the importance of the case, complexity of the issues and financial situation of each party. Finally the CPR rules provide guidance which says cases should be processed as quickly as possible and be assigned a proportion of the courts resources.
Applying CPR Rules
All civil litigation must comply with the civil procedure rules and they must be applied fairly and consistently from the start of proceedings to their conclusion or resolution. Before a trial can be initiated, the rules must be applied. Along with the CPR rules, courts must ensure that they adhere to the Convention Rights and Rules unless a declaration of incompatibility is made to state otherwise.
The declaration of incompatibility states that the legislation being applied is not compatible with the Convention Right. In this instance, the legislation needs to be amended so that it complies with the rights.
Civil procedure rules are quite complex and they can be divided up into 74 different sections. Each section includes several rules. Attached to the rules are also practice directions which relate to each section. A practice direction is divided further into multiple paragraphs and their role is to facilitate clarification and improve understanding of the rules.
The most important rule in the set is Rule 1 which places an overriding objective on courts to deal with all cases fairly as outlined above.
Accompanying the CPR rules are the pre-action protocols in the Civil Procedure book and the pre-action protocols reflect guidelines which individuals pursuing legal action must follow in different areas of law. The pre-action protocols relate to; professional negligence, clinical negligence, personal injury, construction engineering disputes, a judicial review, defamation, housing disrepair, possession claims in relation to rent arrears and disease or illness.
The goal of the pre-action protocols is to resolve disputes at a very early stage and avoid the need to instigate formal legal proceedings through the courts. In the pre-action stage, all parties should encourage the early exchange of information so the dispute is clearly understood. The aim of this initial communication is to avoid where possible court action.
There are various other parts to the CPR rules including Part 3 which relates to serving court papers, Part 6 which defines rules on commencing legal proceedings and Part 7 which explains the basis of a claim form and the information that it must include.
Starting Proceedings CPR Sections 7, 10, 14, 15 and 16
If the pre-action stage fails and an agreement is not reached, the claimant can proceed to issue formal court proceedings on the defendant. The claim form must include a statement of claim, a remedy and indicate whether the claim is for money. The claim form (N1) has to be completed by the claimant and copies supplied to the defendant and the court. When the claim form is issued a fee is payable which will depend on the case and its value. Claim forms must be served on the defendant within 4 months of being issued.
The claim form should also be accompanied by ‘particulars of claim’ which can be provided on the claim form itself or if it is a complex claim, in attached document. The way in which the claim form is served will be outlined in Part 6 of the CPR rules. The particulars of claim must be verified and include a statement of truth as outlined in the civil procedure rules part 22.
Once in receipt of the claim form, the defendant must provide a response through an acknowledgement of service, file or serve an admission or file a defence.
The defendant must choose one of these three options otherwise they will be served a judgement by default due to a failure to respond. The defence must be filed within 14 days after service of the claim form. If the defendant wishes to prepare a defence, they must include the allegations that they admit, they cannot admit or any allegations which they deny. The defence must also include a statement of truth. Alternatively, in accordance with the civil procedure rules, part 20, the defendant can issue a counterclaim.
When a claim is submitted, it will be assigned to one of three tracks; small claims, fast track or multi track.
The small claims track will deal with cases which are no more than £10,000 in value
Fast track will manage cases up to £25,000
Multi track cases are those which do not fit into either of the above categories or where a fast track case is reassigned to multi track.
If individuals do not comply with pre-action protocols, the court may enforce terms to any order granted if it feels that a claimant or defendant has breached the terms of the pre-action protocol. As well as other remedies, the courts may instruct that the party in breach must;
- Pay some or all of the costs incurred by the other party
- Pay a higher rate of interest on damages
It is important that the civil procedure rules are followed when following any type of civil litigation, even when the individual is a litigant in person. These rules clearly define how each party in litigation must behave and what protocols they must adhere to. Pre action protocols are an essential part of the process. Court action, where possible should be avoided and should only be a last resort when all other options have been exhausted.
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