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Civil Procedure Rules 1998

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Civil Procedure Rules 1998

The Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) are the rules of civil procedure used by the Court of Appeal, High Court of Justice, and County Courts in civil cases in England and Wales. They apply to all cases commenced after 26 April 1999, and largely replace the Rules of the Supreme Court and the County Court Rules.

The CPR were designed to improve access to justice by making legal proceedings cheaper, quicker, and easier to understand for non-lawyers. Unlike the previous rules of civil procedure, the CPR commence with a statement of their “Overriding Objective”, both to aid in the application of specific provisions and to guide behaviour where no specific rule applies.


In 1994, the Lord Chancellor instructed the Master of the Rolls, Lord Woolf, to report on options to consolidate the existing rules of civil procedure. On 26 July 1996, Lord Woolf published his Access to Justice Report 1996 [1] in which he "...identified a number of principles the civil justice system should meet to ensure access to justice. The system should –

(a) be just in the results it delivers;
(b) be fair in the way it treats litigants;
(c) offer appropriate procedures at a reasonable cost;
(d) deal with cases with reasonable speed;
(e) be understandable to those who use it;
(f) be responsive to the needs of those who use it;
(g) provide as much certainty as the nature of particular cases allows; and
(h) be effective: adequately resourced and organised.".[2] (Italics in the original.)

Lord Woolf listed two of the requirements of case management as "...fixing timetables for the parties to take particular steps in the case; and limiting disclosure and expert evidence".[3]

The second thread of the report was to control the cost of litigation, both in time and money, by focusing on key issues rather than every possible issue [4] and limiting the amount of work that has to be done on the case.[5]

The report was accompanied by draft rules of practice designed to implement Lord Woolf's proposals. These rules: granted wide management powers to the court [6] proposed that cases be allocated to one of three tracks depending on their nature, limiting or requiring specific actions; and introduced the concept of proportionality to the costs regime.

The Civil Procedure Act 1997 (c. 12) was enacted on 27 February 1997. It conferred the power to make civil procedure rules. It also established the Civil Justice Council, a body composed of members of the judiciary, members of the legal professions and civil servants, and charged with reviewing the civil justice system.

The Civil Procedure Rules 1998 (SI 1998/3132) were made on 10 December 1998 and came into force on 26 April 1999. The draft rules of practice formed their core.

The Overriding Objective

Implemented as a result of reforms suggested by Lord Woolf and his committee, one of the revelations of the rules is the “Overriding Objective” embodied in Part 1 of the Rules, which states:

(1) These Rules are a new procedural code with the overriding objective of enabling the court to deal with cases justly.
(2) Dealing with a case justly includes, so far as is practicable –
(a) ensuring that the parties are on an equal footing;
(b) saving expense;
(c) dealing with the case in ways which are proportionate –
(i) to the amount of money involved;
(ii) to the importance of the case;
(iii) to the complexity of the issues; and
(iv) to the financial position of each party;
(d) ensuring that it is dealt with expeditiously and fairly; and
(e) allotting to it an appropriate share of the court’s resources, while taking into account the need to allot resources to other cases.
The court must seek to give effect to the overriding objective when it –
(a) exercises any power given to it by the Rules; or
(b) interprets any rule.

The rules are written to be intelligible not just to lawyers but to litigants in person also.


Small Claims Track

Claims with a value of not more than £10,000 (the amount increased on 1 April 2013) are usually allocated to the Small Claims Track unless: the amount claimed for pain, suffering, and loss of amenity[7] is more than £1,000.00.;[8] or the cost of the repairs or other work to residential premises claimed against the landlord by a tenant is estimated to be more than £1,000 - whether or not they are also seeking another remedy - or the financial value of any claim in addition to those repairs is more than £1,000.[9]

A claim for a remedy for harassment or unlawful eviction relating to residential premises will not be allocated to the Small Claims Track even if it meets the financial limits.[10]

Fast Track

Claims with a financial value of no more than £25,000 (£15,000 for claims issued before 6 April 2009), for which the Small Claims Track is not the normal track are usually allocated to the Fast Track[11] unless: the trial is likely to last for more than one day;[12] oral expert evidence at trial will be in more than two fields; or there will be more than one expert per party in each field.[13]

Multi Track

Any case not allocated to either the Small Claims- or the Fast Track is allocated to the Multi Track.[14]

Pre-action Protocols

To support the ethos of narrowing the issues prior to the use of proceedings and encapsulate best practice, the CPR introduced “pre-action protocols”. They are given force by Practice Direction – Protocols


Pre-action protocols outline the steps that parties should take in particular types of dispute to seek information from, and to provide information to, each other prior to making a legal claim.

Pre-action protocols, which entails setting out the claim in full to the defendant in an attempt to negotiate a settlement. The emphasis is placed on co-operation to identify the main issues. Failure to co-operate may lead cost penalties,regardless of the eventual outcomes of the case.

Paragraph 1 of the Practice Direction defines the purpose of pre-action protocols as:

  • encouraging the early exchange of all information relating to the prospective legal claim
  • aiding settlement of the claim without the commencement of proceedings
  • producing a foundation for efficient case management where litigation cannot be avoided

Current Pre-action Protocols

Protocol Publication Coming into Force
Construction and Engineering Disputes September 2000 2 October 2000
Defamation September 2000 2 October 2000
Disease and Illness Claims September 2003 8 December 2003
Disrepair Cases September 2003 8 December 2003
Judicial Review 3 December 2001 4 March 2002
Personal Injury Claims January 1999 26 April 1999
Possession claims based on Rent Arrears September 2006 2 October 2006
Professional Negligence May 2001 16 July 2001
Resolution of Clinical Disputes (previously called Clinical Negligence) January 1999 26 April 1999
Last Updated 6 September 2007


Paragraph 2 indicates that the Court may add terms to any order if it feels a party has breached a protocol. These will place parties in the same position as if the breach had not occurred (or a close as possible).

The court may, amongst other remedies, order that the party in breach:

  • pay some or all of the costs of another party
  • pay costs to another party on an indemnity rather than standard basis
  • pay a higher rate of interest on particular damages awarded, or for a particular period.
  • forgo interest on a particular item of damages or for a period.

For instance, where a party commences proceedings prior to supplying important information to the other party(s) then the Court might disallow interest for the period prior to the information being provided.

In addition, the protocol might provide grounds to show a party had or had not behaved so unreasonably as to merit penalty under another Rule (for instance CPR 44.3).

Cases not covered by a protocol

Where no protocol has been published Paragraph 4 states that parties should conform to CPR 1 and the Overriding Objective.

It also sets out what would normally be considered reasonable behaviour prior to issue.

Where a case has been commenced prior to the protocol coming into force, but after publication the protocol is not binding. However, the degree to which a party has attempted to follow it anyway might be persuasive.

Creation of the Rules

Section 2 of the CPA requires that the CPR are made by a committee called the Civil Procedure Rule Committee. The committee is appointed by the Lord Chancellor and is formed of:

  • The Master of the Rolls
  • The Vice-Chancellor
  • One judge of the Supreme Court
  • One Circuit judge
  • One district judge
  • One person who is a Master referred to in Part II of Schedule 2 to the Supreme Court Act 1981
  • Three persons who have a Supreme Court qualification (within the meaning of section 71 of the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990 (CLSA)), including at least one with particular experience of practice in county courts
  • Three persons who have been granted by an authorised body, under Part II of the CLSA 1990, the right to conduct litigation in relation to all proceedings in the Supreme Court, including at least one with particular experience of practice in county courts
  • One person with experience in and knowledge of consumer affairs, and
  • One person with experience in and knowledge of the lay advice sector

Appointments are made in consultation with the Lord Chief Justice and all authorised bodies (within the purposes of section 27 or 28 of the CLSA 1990) which have members who are eligible for appointment.

The committee currently meets 9 times a year, with a summer break during August and September, and a winter break during January.

The current membership of the CPR Committee at any time is to be found on the Ministry of Justice website.


Section 3 of CPA requires that Rules be enacted by a Minister of the Crown.

Section 3(1)(a) grants the Lord Chancellor the power to choose when a Rule comes into effect.

Consequential amendments

Section 4(1) of CPA grants the Lord Chancellor the power to amend, repeal, or revoke, by way of statutory instrument any other law to achieve the purposes of Rules.

Section 4(2) grants the Lord Chancellor the power to amend, repeal, or revoke, by way of statutory instrument any law to facilitate the making of Rules. This power is subject to the approval of both Houses of Parliament by a resolution.

See also



  • Dwyer, D, The Civil Procedure Rules Ten Years On, Oxford University Press (2009).

External links

  • Access to Justice Report 1996: link correct 5 September 2007
  • Civil Procedure Rules: link correct 26 May 2008
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