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Court of Appeal guidance on when it is reasonable to oppose time extensions and impose costs sanctions

R (Idira) v The Secretary of State for the Home Department [2015] EWCA Civ 1187

The Court of Appeal has dismissed an appeal against an order granting the respondent a retrospective time extension for filing a respondent's notice, and requiring the respondent to pay the appellant's costs of the application on an indemnity basis.

The respondent argued that the appellant was trying to take tactical advantage of its default, and a reasonable appellant would have consented to the time extension. Therefore, the master should have ordered that the appellant pay the respondent's costs of the application. The appellant argued that it would not have opposed a reasonable request made in advance, but instead, it received nothing before the respondent's notice was filed, some 19 weeks after it had filed its skeleton argument in support of the appellant's notice. Following this long and largely unexplained delay, it was not clear that the court would grant an extension.

The Court of Appeal held that, notwithstanding the encouragement in Denton v White and other appeals [2014] EWCA Civ 906 (paragraph 43 of the judgment) for parties to agree reasonable requests for extensions, a party is not required to agree to an extension of time in every case where the extension will not disrupt the timetable for the appeal or will not cause prejudice. If the position were otherwise, the court would lose control of the management of the litigation.

The master's decision struck the right balance. With regard to respondent's notices, it was correct to take into account the court's reluctance to prevent an issue being raised which went to the heart of an appeal, unless it would disrupt the appeal or cause real prejudice to the appellant. That was particularly so where, as in this case, an appeal raised a point of law which might have implications for other cases.

This case demonstrates that best practice is to seek any time extension early, before the deadline has expired.

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