Relief from Sanction

HHJ Jarman QC refused to grant the claimant relief from sanction for failing to pay hearing and application fees by the time specified in an unless order, with the result that its claim was struck out.

The judge did not accept that this was a trivial breach, and he refused leave to appeal on the basis that there had been two clear, consistent Court of Appeal authorities (Mitchell and Thevarajah). It was a question of applying the relevant principles to the particular facts of each case. The following points are of particular interest:

• The claimant sought to rely on CPR 3.1(7) (the court’s power to revoke or vary an order), as well as CPR 3.9, but the judge noted that “in essence” the issue was whether relief should be granted

• In evidence, the claimant’s solicitor stated that a court officer had told him that payment of the fees could follow the filing of the pre-trial checklist (also required under the unless order). The judge firmly stated that this did not justify the solicitor’s behaviour. The solicitor was an officer of the court and was well aware of the terms of the unless order. It was not acceptable for him to seek to rely on what he might have been told by a member of court staff, in the context of compliance with judicial orders

• The judge agreed that, when considering whether the breach was trivial, it was relevant that CPR 3.7 makes clear the importance of paying court fees, and the sanctions for failing to comply

This is one of three decisions due to be considered by the Court of Appeal on 16 and 17 June 2014.

Decadent Vapours Ltd v Bevan and others, Cardiff District Registry of the Chancery Division (18 February 2014)