The Civil Procedure Rule Committee (CPRC) plans to raise the threshold for appeals, as part of a package of proposals designed to help the Court of Appeal cope with a ‘serious backlog’.
Master of the rolls Lord Dyson (pictured) pointed out the volume of cases in the CoA has risen by 59% in the past five years, without any increase in judicial resources, causing a growing backlog and substantial delays.
A freedom of information request from the Gazette last summer showed that the number of adjourned trials at the court leapt by 75% in a year.
‘The judges of the court do not regard the present position as acceptable or sustainable,’ Dyson said.
His comments come in a foreword to a CPRC consultation launched yesterday: ‘Appeals to the Court of Appeal: proposed amendments to Civil Procedure Rules and Practice Direction’.
Proposed reforms include increasing the threshold for granting permission to appeal in the civil division of the CoA from a ‘real prospect of success’ to a ‘substantial prospect of success’.
The new standard would mean that appeals would be granted where it is ‘seriously arguable’ that an error has been made, rather than the current standard which requires appellants to show the prospects of success are not merely fanciful.
The consultation said: ‘This change will better ensure that an appropriate share of the court’s resources is allocated to hearing full appeals in cases where it really matters, while taking in account the need to allot resources to other cases.’
The committee also proposes to remove the right of a litigant to require a refusal of permission to appeal (or other application to the court) based on consideration of the documents to be reconsidered at a court hearing.
This would be replaced with discretion for the judge who considers whether permission to appeal (or other application) should be granted to decide to call the case in for an oral hearing, if they think it appropriate as a matter of case management.
In addition, it is proposed to refine the Practice Direction governing the conduct of civil appeals in the CoA to make it more user-friendly and to prevent the court from ‘drowning in paper’.
Dyson added: ‘The judges of the court consider that adoption of the package of reforms is critical in order to tackle the problems of overload of cases and increasing delays.
‘Unless urgent and concerted action is taken to ease the pressures on the Court of Appeal we risk damaging not just the international reputation of the court, but its integral role in the proper and efficient administration of justice in this country.’
The consultation will close on 24 June.