AGREEING EXTENSIONS OF TIME: OFFICIAL GUIDANCE
The problem of parties not being able to agree extensions of time has been present since the decision in Lloyd. However Kerry Underwood reports on a new addition to draft orders set out by Master Cook today.
THE DRAFT WORDING
“The parties may, by prior agreement in writing, extend the time for directions, in the Order dated xxxxxx, by up to 28 days and without the need to apply to Court. Beyond that 28 day period, any agreed extension of time must be submitted to the Court by email including a brief explanation of the reasons, confirmation that it will not prejudice any hearing date and with a draft Consent Order in word format. The Court will then consider whether a formal Application and Hearing is necessary.”
COMMON SENSE PREVAILS
Kerry reports that
“This new direction has been approved by the Master of the Rolls and the President of the Queen’s Bench Division. It is expressly stated that this is in an attempt to address, that is reduce, extensions of time applications.
The effect is that parties may now agree extensions of time of up to 28 days without the need to apply to Court.”
This clearly addresses a major problem, with some courts facing a vast backlog of work due just to applications (largely by consent) for extensions of time.
POINTS TO WATCH
Remember the agreement to extend has to be in writing. See the previous blog post on this issue, and the need for there to be an exchange of correspondence.
WHERE DOES THAT LEAVE “HISTORICAL” AGREEMENTS TO EXTEND TIME?
Given this stance it would be wholly ridiculous to penalise parties who have agreed to extend time in the past. This remains a problem, however. I have heard of one case being struck out on the morning of the trial because the parties had agreed to extend time for the exchange of witness statements and not obtained the approval of the court. We already have some guidance on the issue. It is to be hoped that common sense will also prevail in relation to extensions granted in the past.