Compliance with time limits is of paramount importance and failure to comply with directions with specified time limits may result in sanctions being imposed. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Ministry of Justice introduced a new Practice Direction 51ZA (Extension of time limits and clarification of PD 51Y) with effect from 2 April 2020.
The new Practice Direction offers much needed relief to parties and the Court. PD 51ZA also offers guidance to the Court when determining applications for adjournments, time extensions, compliance with directions and relief from sanctions.
Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, parties could seek reliance on Civil Procedure Rule (“CPR”) 3.8. Parties were able to agree a 28 day extension to comply with time limits in the CPR, PDs and Court Orders without formally notifying the Court. Practice Direction 51ZA amends CPR 3.8 and permits parties to agree an extension of up to 56 days without notifying the Court. It is important to note, if an extension is required for more than 56 days, permission must be sought by the Court.
When seeking a time extension, parties must consider the impact on any applicable hearing dates, and the extension must not put the hearing date at risk.
Parties can rely on PD 51ZA until the 30 October 2020; thereafter, PD 51ZA will cease to have effect. In order to prevent the need for applying for time extensions after this date, it may be practical to ask the Court to allow more time for case management deadlines when asking for an Order for directions.