The latest update to the Civil Procedure Rules makes several important changes. The most significant is the introduction of the Electronic Working Scheme which provides for the electronic filing of court documents, but there have also been smaller changes, which are detailed below.  

Electronic Filing of Document at Court – PD 5C  

The Electronic Working Scheme comes into force on 1 April 2010. This allows for a large proportion of litigation to be conducted electronically in the following courts:  

  • Admiralty, Commercial and London Mercantile Courts
  • Technology and Construction Courts
  • Chancery Division of the Royal Courts of Justice (including the Patents Court and the Bankruptcy and Companies courts).  

The rules apply to any claims under parts 7, 8 or 20 as well as Arbitration claims and Admiralty proceedings started on or after 1 April 2010 and any which have already been commenced electronically under the earlier pilot scheme. The scheme provides for electronic filing of Claim Forms, Particulars of Claim, Defences, and several other documents.  

The new scheme changes the ways documents are dealt with by the court:

  1. Electronic filing can take place 24/7 on any day of the year.
  2. Forms only need to be filed once, with no paper copies required in most cases and automatic acknowledgments will be sent by email.
  3. The court encourages parties to send all communications to the court and each other by email and it is assumed that parties are content to accept service of documents by email.

Key points to note:

  • Documents must be served in PDF form
  • There are certain forms which have been created specifically for the Electronic Working Scheme and these must be used where appropriate. They will be available from the court once the scheme commences
  • Claim forms filed outside court hours will be considered issued the date they are received even if they are processed later. Other forms will be considered filed on the date when the automated response is received, regardless of when the form is sent
  • Links to the acknowledgement of service will be at the end of the claim form
  • All bundles must still be filed with the court in paper form as well as electronic form (on a DVD if the file is very large). Similarly, allocation questionnaires should be filed in both formats
  • Non-parties will be able to access court documents they are entitled to view electronically via a kiosk system at court. It is not clear yet how this will work in practice but could help interested non-parties get the information they require in a straightforward way  

A round-up of the rest of the changes

Legal Representatives and Service in the EEA

Following the implementation of the Legal Services Act 2007 there are some small changes to the CPR to widen the definition of “legal representative” to all those who are authorised to conduct litigation. This now includes Patent and Trademark Attorneys.  

In addition, where a party to a matter gives the address of his solicitor within an EEA state for service, documents must be served on the solicitor at that address. This may have a wider impact on the rules for service out of jurisdiction but currently those rules have not yet been amended.

Time Limits for Applications

Time for serving an application notice for a telephone hearing is now five clear days before the hearing (usually three days). Documents required for application hearings must be filed and served no later than 4pm at least two clear days before the hearing (previously documents could be filed and served on the last working day before a hearing).

In respect of all applications on the multi-track, and where the court directs on the small claims and fast tracks, a case summary and draft order must be served in advance of the hearing.  

Costs  

There are several new provisions in the Costs Practice Direction.  

  • Emails: emails may be billed and must be included as separate items on a bill of costs  
  • Statement of costs: where a court may deal with the issue of costs at a hearing, a statement of costs must be filed and served 24 hours before the date fixed for a hearing. On the fast track, cost estimates only need to be filed before trial and in this case at least two days before  
  • Disbursements: in respect of claims under the detailed costs assessment regime, disbursements over £500 must be evidenced (previously £250)  
  • CFAs: At detailed assessment involving a claim for additional liability (success fee and/or ATE Insurance) certain information about the level of risk as assessed at the time the CFA was entered into must be provided by the receiving party. In the case of insurance premiums, a copy of the Insurance certificate showing what costs the policy covers, the extent of the cover and premium paid, should be provided  

A further Statutory Instrument which is likely to include changes in the rules on e-disclosure is expected in February 2010.

RPC comments

The Electronic Working Scheme is to be welcomed. Hopefully it will be rolled out to the Queen’s Bench Division and higher courts soon.

The potential to have a 24-hour filing system (including weekends and bank holidays) should save time, costs and avoid the current problem of missing or incorrectly filed documents on the court file. Further, filing serving documents by email creates a more satisfactory document trail and ensures that documents do not go missing on fax machines or in the post, either at court or between parties.

It is worth noting the greater degree of openness that the document kiosk system will allow. Non-parties who wish to get hold of court documents in cases proceedings under the electronic filing scheme should find it easier to find and access the documents required. Parties to actions which may be confidential should be aware too that their court records will be accessible to non-parties.