We have published a number of blogs over the past few months highlighting the robust approach being adopted by the courts, following the Mitchell case. (In short, a court date was to be adhered to at all cost.)

Prior to Mitchell, it is arguable (and not just from a lawyer’s perspective) that the court rules (the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR)) worked well. However, the decisions emanating from the courts since Mitchell mean we now find ourselves having to issue urgent applications for relief from sanctions, often not being heard until the deadlines have passed or rushing to adhere to impractical deadlines.

Fortunately, a new amendment to the CPR, which comes in to force on 5 June 2014, will allow parties, by prior agreement in writing, to vary directions, for a maximum of 28 days, without needing court approval.

Specifically, the change to Rule 3.8 CPR provides that where a rule, practice direction or court order requires a party to do something within a specified time, and specifies the consequences of failure to comply, the parties may, by prior written agreement, extend up to a maximum of 28 days the time for doing the act in question, provided that any hearing date is not put at risk as a result.

The new “buffer” amendment does not detract from Mitchell and subsequent cases, and will not change much overall at this stage, but does apply much needed common sense for people involved in civil litigation.