The case of Venulum Property Investments Ltd v Space Architecture Limited [2013] EWHC 1242 (TCC) concerned a relief from sanctions application under r. 3.9. The decision was in fact made under the old rules because the application was made prior to 1st April 2013 but the judge (Edwards-Stuart J) took the new regime into account concluding:

“In my judgment, when the circumstances are considered as a whole, particularly in the light of the stricter approach that must now be taken by the courts towards those who fail to comply with rules following the new changes to the CPR, this is a case where the court should refuse permission to extend time. The Claimant has taken quite long enough to bring these proceedings and enough is now enough. I therefore refuse this application”.

The claimant’s application was for an extension of time for serving the Particulars of Claim. The Claim Form had been issued on 12th November 2012 but served on the very last day for service (12th March 2013). The Particulars of Claim were wrongly served 14 days later – the Claimant’s solicitors forgetting that the long stop deadline for service is four months after the issue of the Claim Form.

In the judgment there was a predictable citation in the judgment from Fred Perry v Brands Plaza Trading [2012] EWCA Civ 224 (Lewison LJ):

“… courts at all levels have become too tolerant of delays and non-compliance with orders. In so doing they have lost sight of the damage which the culture of delay and non-compliance is inflicting on the civil justice system. The balance therefore needs to be redressed.”

There were also predictable citations from Hashtroodi v Hancock [2004] 1 W.L.R. 3206 on courting disaster by leaving issue until expiry of the limitation period and failure to serve (due to incompetence on the part of solicitors) being a powerful reason not to grant and extension of time.

The judge looked at all the circumstances and refused relief due to the weakness of the Claimant’s case, poor pleading and a lengthy and unexplained delay of 5 years before instructing solicitors. The tough new regime undoubtedly helped the defendant but one is left with a doubt as to whether the outcome would have been any different pre Jackson.