Emmanuel v The Commissioners for her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs  WWHC 1253 (Ch)
Exploring when an extension should be granted and in accordance with the Overriding Objective, why.
The Overriding Objective should be known back to front by practitioners. It is the context against which all decisions in civil procedure should be considered.
The Overriding Objective
(1) These Rules are a new procedural code with the overriding objective of enabling the court to deal with cases justly and at proportionate cost.
Duty of the Parties
The parties are required to help the court to further the overriding objective.
How the Overriding Objective should influence a party’s decision to grant an extension was considered in the recent High Court case of Emmanuel v HMRC.
The Claim related to a bankruptcy order against Mr Emmanuel. The specifics are convoluted and irrelevant for the purposes of this article, however a brief description of certain events will help clarify the reasoning behind the Court’s decision.
As part of an Application during the course of the matter, HMRC were directed to file evidence by the 21st March 2016. In advance of the deadline, HMRC requested a short extension of time for the service of the evidence, this request was refused by Mr Emmanuel very shortly before the deadline elapsed. The High Court found that the Mr Emmanuel’s refusal to agree the extension was contrary to the Overriding Objective and as a result determined that he take the cost consequence of failing on the point.
The High Court refer to precedent in coming to their decision. Hallam Estates Ltd v Baker [2014 EWCA Civ 661 wherein LJ Jackson determined:
“…A variety of circumstances may arise in which one or other party (however diligent) may require a modest extension of time. Under rule 1.3 the parties have a duty to help the court in furthering the overriding objective. The overriding objective includes allotting an appropriate share of the court’s resources to an individual case. Therefore legal representatives are not in breach of any duty to their client, when they agree to a reasonable extension of time which neither imperils future hearing dates nor otherwise disrupts the conduct of the litigation. On the contrary, by avoiding the need for a contested application they are furthering the overriding objective and also saving costs for the benefit of their own client.” (emphasis added)
Failing to grant an extension is potentially a breach of the Overriding Objective on a number of counts. It may result in additional expense 1.1(2)(b) and a disproportionate increase to costs 1.1(2)(c), it may prevent the matter from being pursued expeditiously 1.1(2)(d) and it may result in the claim requiring an inappropriate share of the Court’s recourses 1.1(2)(e). Furthermore, as per LJ Jackson above, a failure to grant an extension may represent a failure to ‘help the court to further the overriding objective’ (1.3)
As is often the case, whether granting an extension is contrary to the Overriding Objective will ultimately turn on the facts. In Emmanuel v HMRC the granting of HMRC’s requested extension would not have prejudiced any hearing or indeed any further directions. Further, the Appellant only rejected the request at the last possible moment and seemingly only for tactical reasons.
Had there been good reason to reject the requested extension then doing so would almost certainly not have been contrary to the overriding objective. The authorities then do not oblige a party to grant an extension. However if doing so will not cause any prejudice to the case proceeding, the decision to grant an extension should take into account the Overriding Objective and the party’s obligations to the court therein and should likely be granted.