Last Friday the Manchester legal community had the honour of a visit from Lord Dyson, the second most senior judge in the country and the Head of Civil Justice, who had requested to meet with local practitioners.
Having recently given judgment in the Mitchell v MGN case on relief from sanction he was a man everyone wanted to meet and the courtroom in our state of the art Civil Justice Centre (described by Lord Dyson as second to none) was packed.
After a brief introduction Lord Dyson opened the floor to questions which, unsurprisingly, centred around the decision in Mitchell and the Jackson reforms. On the question of Mitchell Lord Dyson was unrepentant about the consequences of the decision when asked whether the refusal to grant relief was proportionate to the failure to comply with the rules. He said he was at pains not to send out the wrong message about failure to comply whilst stressing the exemptions of triviality and good reason. He likened the requirement to comply to that of Landlord and Tenant section 25 notices.
When it was suggested in one question that some practitioners may not have read Mitchell in full he was – quite rightly I thought – taken aback and his response was that he thought it part of a solicitors professional duty to have read it!
Questions were asked about the ability of the courts to cope with a likely deluge of applications for extensions of time and relief. Lord Dyson confirmed – following a newspaper leak earlier in the week – that the Civil Justice Committee were looking at whether to provide for the parties to agree between them one extension of time.
It was refreshing to hear Lord Dyson’s direct and honest approach and get an insight into the thinking behind Mitchell and other recent reforms.
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