The recent case of Saint Benedict Land Trust Ltd v London Borough of Camden has made it very clear that informal correspondence with Court will not amount to grant of time extension and that the Court will not tolerate attempts to circumvent the Civil Procedure Rules.
In this case, the appellant was required to file the appeal bundle with the Court by a specific date. The appellant failed to do so and therefore the judge, Mr Justice Marcus Smith, made an order that the appeal should be struck out. The appellant applied to vary or revoke this order.
As part of its application, the appellant relied on the fact that:
- It had notified the Court that the transcript of the first instance hearing had not yet been obtained and accordingly that there would be a delay in the lodging of its skeleton argument and the appeal bundle; and
- The response from the Listing Office noted the request for an extension of time and stated that the Court would expect the skeleton to be enclosed with the appeal bundle when lodged.
The appellant submitted that it therefore had permission to file the appeal bundle 7 days after the transcript had been obtained.
When considering the appellant’s application, the Judge stated that ‘it is quite clear that there was no such extension made or granted’ by the Listings Office. He emphasised that it was unfair to email court staff requesting a vague extension of time, particularly in circumstances where the Order made it clear that the appellant had to lodge the appeal bundle by a certain date.
The Judge determined that the appeal was therefore properly struck out because the rules had not been complied with. Notwithstanding this, he acknowledged that it would be unfair to deprive the appellant the opportunity to appeal purely on procedural grounds. He ordered the appellant to file an appeal bundle within seven days or the appeal would be struck out again.
The Judge warned that ‘the rules are in the White Book for a reason and this court takes a singularly dim view of attempts by parties to circumvent them.’ He advised that the Court would always consider a “proper request” for a time extension; however this would involve a formal application to the Court, supported by evidence explaining why the relevant material could not be filed.
This judgment is an important reminder that informal correspondence with the Court should not be relied upon, or be considered a substitute for a formal application. In circumstances where you are concerned that a Court deadline may be missed, you should make a formal application to the Court in good time.