It is recognised that there are “major pressures facing the Court of Appeal’s Civil Division”.
Not an appealing prospect for those looking to appeal decisions from the County Court or High Court.
The simple fact is that the Court of Appeal has been overstretched for some time. It is reflected in the fact that the “hear-by dates” were extended in August last year, the first change since 2003. These are target dates which set out the length of time within which an appeal is likely to be heard. It can now be up to 19 months depending on the nature of the decision being appealed. By then, the momentum in the court proceedings can easily be lost.
According to a consultation exercise by the Civil Procedure Rule Committee (CPRC), the Court of Appeal’s workload has increased by 59% in the past five years and there has been no corresponding increase in judicial resources to support this.
This is why the CPRC are proposing to change the procedure for appeals to the Court of Appeal. The general rule is that there is no automatic right to bring an appeal. Permission to appeal is required. Currently to obtain that permission, an appellant has to show that the appeal would have a real prospect of success or there is some other compelling reason why the appeal should be heard. The proposals are to raise the threshold for permission to a substantial prospect of success.
This is not just a change of word but is recognised to be a more stringent test. The aim is to ensure that the “appropriate share of the court’s resources is allocated to hearing full appeals in the cases where it really matters”.
Other proposed changes include removing the automatic right to have a permission refusal reviewed at an oral hearing. Instead the Court of Appeal would have a discretion to decide whether to hold a hearing or to determine an application for permission to appeal on the documents. It is also proposed to limit the volume of documentation presented to the Court of Appeal. Clearly the aim is to free up judicial time.
The consultation coincides with imminent changes to levels of appeal which will result in more appeals from County Court decisions being made to the High Court rather than the Court of Appeal. This will affect a number of appeals as more claims are now issued in the County Court, after the financial limit was raised to £100,000.
The outcome of the CPRC consultation is now awaited.
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