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Social Housing Speed Read: Procedural updates – Contempt of Court

Earlier this month, procedural changes came into force in relation to committal proceedings.

The extensive revisions follow a public consultation in which the previous format was deemed to be complex, repetitive and, on the whole, heavily criticised. The new changes therefore serve to condense the previous rules and to set out a more uniform and simplified procedure. The newly introduced CPR 81 was effective from 1 October 2020 and replaces the former CPR 81 entirely.

Looking at Part 81 itself, the most noticeable change is the consolidation of rules that has taken place, taking the total from 38 to just 10. It is important to note here that the rules all apply generally, as opposed to the previous rules that were set out across 9 different areas of law.  The procedure is therefore now identical for all contempt applications, with no area-specific deviations.

Other key changes include:

  • Practice Direction 81 has been dispensed with entirely and is not set to be replaced anytime soon – all that you need to know is contained within the rules themselves.
  • Parties are now to be referred to as “claimant” and “defendant”, as opposed to “applicant” and “respondent”.
  • Permission to bring committal proceedings is now only necessary in two circumstances:
    • Where the committal application relates to an interference with the administration of justice (except in existing High Court or county court proceedings); or
    • Where the committal application relates to allegations of knowingly making a false statement in any affidavit, affirmation or other document verified by a statement of truth, or in a disclosure statement.
  • Clarity regarding service is provided under the new CPR 81.5, which outlines specific provisions to dispense with personal service when a legal representative is on the record.
  • Codification of the court’s power to issue a bench warrant to secure a defendant’s attendance.

With these new changes has come a number of new court forms that are unique to contempt proceedings. These forms are listed below, and should be used in all contempt proceedings going forward:

  • N600 Contempt Application.
  • N601 Summons under r.81.6(3).
  • N602 Warrant to Secure Attendance at Court under r.81.7(2).
  • N603 Order under r.81.9.
  • N604 Warrant of Committal under r.81.9.

The new rules certainly serve to streamline the process and reduce the number of hurdles to be overcome in bringing contempt proceedings. The simplification will almost certainly serve to reduce scope for procedural error, as well as the time and money needed to progress such applications.

If you have any questions on the above and how it will affect social housing providers, or any other questions as a social housing provider, please do not hesitate to contact John Murray or a member of our expert Social Housing Team.

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

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