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Mitchell v News Group Newspapers [2013] EWCA Civ 1537

Posted Monday 10th February 2014

In Mitchell the MP’s lawyers did not file their costs budget on time, which is seven days before the relevant hearing. The relevant rule (CPR 3.14) provides that unless the court otherwise orders, any party which fails to file a budget despite being required to do so will be treated as having filed a budget comprising only the applicable court fees. CPR 3.9 gives a party a chance to ask for relief from such sanctions. Mitchell was refused relief from sanctions at first instance and subsequently appealed the decision. The Court of Appeal upheld the Master’s decision and Mitchell’s budget was limited to recovery of court fees only.

In coming to its decision the Court sought to distinguish between trivial non-compliances which might entitle a party to relief, and others where the burden was on the defaulting party, and there had to be good reason for default. And being a bit busy and stretched, as was submitted by Mitchell, did not fall into the “good reason” category.

“The merit of the rule is that it sets out a stark and simple default sanction. The expectation is that the sanction will usually apply unless (i) the breach is trivial or (ii) there is a good reason for it. It is true that the court has the power to grant relief, but the expectation is that, unless (i) or (ii) is satisfied, the two factors mentioned in the rule will usually trump other circumstances. If partial relief were to be encouraged, that would give rise to uncertainty and complexity.”

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