New Guidance: Relief from sanction, Mitchell Clarified

Posted: July 16, 2014

The Court of Appeal has recently clarified the decision in Mitchell v News Group Newspapers Ltd on relief from sanction by setting out a three stage approach for Judges to use when applying relief from sanctions under CPR 3.9.  The Court of Appeal’s Judgment can be found here.

The guidance in Mitchell had been applied inconsistently in three cases in which a party had sought relief from sanctions pursuant to CPR 3.9. These were conjoined as one case in the Court of Appeal.    The Court found that whilst the guidance given in Mitchell remains substantially sound, it should be interpreted by the judiciary using the following three stage approach:

  1. Identify and assess the seriousness of and significance of the failure to comply with any rule, practice direction, or court order which engages rule 3.9(1). If it is neither serious nor significant then the court should not need to proceed to stages 2 and 3.
  2. Consider why the default occurred;
  3. Evaluate all the circumstances of the case, so as to enable the court to deal justly with the application including stages 1 and 2 above. 

By applying this test, a serious breach for no clear good reason is not prevented from attracting relief.

The Court found that the Judges in each of the three appeals had erred in their reasoning and the judgments were therefore set aside.

Gillie Abbotts is an Associate at Michael Simkins LLP