RESPONDING TO A COMMITTAL APPLICATION: A POINT TO WATCH
The brief report in Lawtel of Royal & Sun Alliance -v- Fahad (QBD Spencer J 17/10/14) brings home an important procedural point in relation to committal applications.
The applicant was seeking to commit the respondent for making false statements during a claim for damages for personal injury.
A committal application requires permission of the court to proceed. This is dealt with in CPR 81.14
Application for permission (High Court, Divisional Court or Administrative Court)
(1) The application for permission to make a committal application must be made by a Part 8 claim form which must include or be accompanied by –
(a) a detailed statement of the applicant’s grounds for bringing the committal application; and
(b) an affidavit setting out the facts and exhibiting all documents relied upon.
(2) The claim form and the documents referred to in paragraph (1) must be served personally on the respondent unless the court otherwise directs.
(3) Within 14 days of service on the respondent of the claim form, the respondent –
(a) must file and serve an acknowledgment of service; and
(b) may file and serve evidence.
(4) The court will consider the application for permission at an oral hearing, unless it considers that such a hearing is not appropriate.
(5) If the respondent intends to appear at the permission hearing referred to in paragraph (4), the respondent must give 7 days’ notice in writing of such intention to the court and any other party and at the same time provide a written summary of the submissions which the respondent proposes to make.
(6) Where permission to proceed is given, the court may give such directions as it thinks fit,
THE POSITION IN THE FAHAD CASE
The claimant had not given notice of any intend to attend nor provided a summary of the written submissions. He applied for relief from sanctions the day before the hearing. He was allowed to make submissions in relation to relief from sanctions but this was refused, it was not an isolated breach. The application to commit continued.
WELL HOW MANY COMMITTAL PROCEEDINGS WILL I DO?
That is the point. A lack of knowledge that this rule exists and a failure to comply could lead to an inability to argue that the application should not continue. Consequently the full committal application could continue in circumstances where the court should have decided, upon hearing argument, that it should not continue. There are circumstances in which a court will not grant permission at this stage, see for instance Johnson -v- Official Receiver (Ch Proudman J 06/06/14) and Coll -v- Floreat Merchant Banking Ltd  EWHC 1741 (QB).
ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF RELIEF FROM SANCTIONS BEING REFUSED
This is another example of relief from sanctions being refused. It may well be that making submissions at that stage would have made no difference (the report indicates that this was the judge’s view). The central point is that this is an important time limit that (like them all) cannot lightly be ignored.