Tomorrow as the last working day before April, shall mark the end of an era. Not a particularly long era. But all of fourteen years of the Civil Procedure Rules as we have known them.
From the 1st April 2013, the CPR will be significantly altered for every civil litigant. Most pertinently, the Overriding Objective will now include specific reference to undertaking litigation at proportionate cost, and ensuring compliance with (interlocutory) orders of the court.
In the latter vein, CPR 3.9 “Relief from Sanctions” is being entirely reformed. Gone will be the checklist, oft-treated as a checklist by judges, to be replaced by a much broader discretion as to whether to grant relief, with the judge specifically referred to the need for litigation to be conducted efficiently and at proportionate cost, and to enforce compliance with rules, practice directions and orders.
Lord Dyson, the Master of the Rolls in a speech last week to District Judges at their annual seminar reminded us that the change to CPR 3.9 in reflecting the new Overriding Objective was to simplify the rule for when relief from sanctions should be granted. The removal of the checklist was something, he argued, would improve the clarity of decision making and decrease the scope of ‘satellite litigation’ – presumably referring to appeals for failing to consider appropriately all aspects of the former checklist.
Lord Dyson argued that when considering applications for relief, for too long the courts have (albeit understandingly) erred on allowing the principle of individual justice to trump any real consideration of the effect that this may have on the system of justice or upon other court users. He quotes Lord Justice Jackson in Mannion v Ginty  EWCA Civ 1667 at  as referring to “a culture of toleration of delay and non-compliance with court orders” in the civil justice system. It is suggested that the changes to CPR 3.9 will end this culture (which the CPR itself was designed to curtail).
The Master of the Rolls suggests that the more robust future attitude to rule-compliance and relief from sanction, is intended to ensure justice is done. However, the new CPR defines a different acknowledgement and achievement of justice. He states that parties can no longer expect indulgence if they fail to comply with procedural obligations, and that efficiency, proportionality and consideration of other litigants and court resources are to constitute new cornerstones to this ‘different justice’.