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What is the “overriding objective”?

two men shouting at each other in dispute

The Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) aim to make civil justice fair, efficient and more accessible. They demand a code of behaviour and attitude to dispute resolution with the emphasis being on investigating and preparing the case at an early stage and committing management resources to the resolution of the dispute.

Every case that proceeds to litigation is subject to the “overriding objective” as stated by the CPR.

All cases that proceed to litigation must comply with the overriding objective. The parties have a duty to assist the court to further the overriding objective which is applied to enable the court to deal with cases in a just and proportionate manner. The overriding objective includes;

  • ensuring the parties are on an equal footing;
  • saving expenses;
  • dealing with cases in a proportionate manner which includes considering the money involved, importance of the case, complexity of the issues, and each parties financial position;
  • Ensuring the case is dealt with efficiently and fairly;
  • Providing the case with an appropriate share of the courts resources while also considering the need to provide resources to other cases; and
  • enforcing compliance with the practice directions, orders, and rules.

The court will continuously consider whether the parties are acting reasonably both before and during proceedings. A party that conducts litigation in a manner which is not in accordance with the overriding objective risks severe penalty costs.

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