You may recall that in our February edition of Accountability we highlighted the strict approach being taken by the courts when time limits and deadlines set by court orders, rules and practice directions were not met and when applications for relief from sanctions were being made as a result.

Parties have been understandably concerned about their ability to agree extensions of time with an opponent, where an automatic sanction applies to a failure to comply with the court order or rule in question. As a consequence the courts have, in recent months, been inundated with urgent applications seeking extensions of time, even when the extension being sought would have no impact on the timetable to trial, it was agreed between the parties and was embodied in a signed consent order.

The Civil Procedure Rules Committee recognised that the position needed clarity and they have now approved an amendment to CPR 3.8, which will have effect from 5 June 2014. The amendment will enable parties to agree an extension to any time limit by prior written agreement, up to a maximum of 28 days, provided always that any such extension does not put at risk any hearing date.

Comment

The key provisos are that (i) the agreement is reached in advance of the deadline, so if the deadline has already passed an application for relief from sanctions will still need to be made, and (ii) that no hearing date is put at risk - any hearing date, not just the trial date.