Denton Test and the Relief from Sanctions
What is the Denton Test?
The Denton Test is a process utilised by the court in civil litigation cases to assess whether an application for relief from sanctions should be granted. The Denton Test derives from the Court of Appeals ruling in Denton v TH White  EWCA Civ 906, following an appeal from the High Court. The Denton Test came from the Denton case in which additional witness statements were filed months after the deadline, but this was argued due to a change in circumstances.
The judgment in the Denton case now ensures applications for relief from sanctions are handled in a much more proportionate manner when looking at the different types of breaches, ultimately encouraging parties to work together to resolve any minor issues. Prior to the Denton case, breaches of sanctions were privy to harsh consequences by the courts.
Parties may need to apply for relief from sanctions for a number of reasons, there is no set list, but can include missing deadlines and failing to comply with orders.
At Greener Costs, our expert Costs Lawyers and Costs Draftsmen are experienced in drafting applications for relief, and are able to help clients on a variety of cases with their applications. If you are looking for more information on how the team at Greener Costs can help you, or need advice regarding relief from sanctions, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch today.
The Three Stage Denton Test
Courts utilise a three stage test system to judge whether relief from sanctions should be granted:
- Assess the seriousness and/or significance of the breach of compliance
During the first stage there will be investigations to ascertain whether the breach is serious or significant to the proceedings. Examples of serious breaches may include failing to comply with order or failing to pay the relevant legal fees. It is also worth noting that if a case has multiple breaches it will most likely proceed to stage 2 of the investigations, even if the multiple breaches are separately minor. If the breach is not deemed serious or significant by the court then it is likely that no sanctions will be imposed on the party in question and stage 2 of the process need not be reached.
- The reasons for why the breach/default occurred
A good reason may be enough for a judge to impose relief on sanctions. There are no set guidelines on what might be considered a good reason but it is instead at the judges discretion. Examples may include illnesses or unreasonable deadlines. Simple mistakes and disorganisation are unlikely to be good enough to be considered as reason enough for a breach. If it gets to stage 2 and a judge finds that the breach was significant and there was no good reason for it, they are then to move to stage 3 and assess the situation as a whole.
- Evaluate all the circumstances in the case
Stage 3 allows a judge to evaluate and assess a case as a whole in terms of the breaches and potential sanctions imposed. Things that may be considered during the final stage include how long it took for the application for relief from sanctions to be made after the breach occurred and whether the sanctions that may be imposed are just for the level of the breach. Judges will also take note from the criteria and guidelines set out in support of The Denton Test in Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) 3.9.
CPR 3.9 is written to support and assist The Denton Test, it states that the courts should:
“consider all the circumstances of the case, so as to enable it to deal justly with the application, including the need – (a) for litigation to be conducted efficiently and at proportionate cost; and (b) to enforce compliance with rules, practice directions and orders.”
Why you may need relief from sanctions
Parties may need relief from sanctions for a number of reasons, and it is up to the Judge, with the help of the Denton Test, to decide if and what relief should be allowed.
It is best to file for relief from sanctions as soon as a party has realised their mistake or oversight, as it may go against them if it is later found out that they did not file as soon as they were able to.
Some of the more common reasons parties file for relief from sanctions can include failure to comply with directions, delaying filing important documents and also the delayed filing of costs budgets for example. Sanctions for late filings of costs documents may have further financial consequences and delay proceedings. If relief applications are submitted as early as possible then it is more likely to be granted relief from sanctions under stage one of the Denton Test.
Applications for relief should be made pre-trial as, waiting until the day of trial to make any application is likely to result in a disruption to litigation process.
How Greener Costs can assist
Our team at Greener Costs possess significant experience surrounding the processes of legal costing and negotiations and are able to assist clients from a range of backgrounds on a variety of cases. We can effectively assist and offer advice on drafting applications for relief from sanctions.
We have worked with clients throughout England and Wales through the use of our remote law costing services. Our clients find increased efficiency through the use of our remote service as it provides a pragmatic approach to costing, reducing the time it would take to scan and send an abundance of files. Due to this, we can ensure quick turnaround agreements, which under most circumstances can be much more efficient than clients completing the work themselves in-house.
At Greener Costs, we are actively doing everything we can to ensure our business benefits the environment. We are doing this through carbon offsetting of our staff, becoming completely paperless and carbon offsetting through each instruction.
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