Home refusal court claim declared out of time

A litigant seeking to quash an inspector's decision to refuse permission for a dwelling in Buckinghamshire failed to file the claim form in time, the High Court has ruled.

The appellant challenged the decision (DCS Number 200-004-655) on the grounds that the inspector had misconstrued national planning policy and given inadequate reasons, He sought to file the claim on the last day of the six-week period allowed for submission. Court security staff refused entry at 4.25pm on the ground that the counters were closed. The claimant attended the court the next day at 3.30pm but was not seen until 5pm, when he was informed that the wrong form had been used.

He was not allowed to complete the correct form at the time and returned on the first working day after a bank holiday. The claim was not accepted by the court office because it had been filed out of time. The claimant argued that the court office had not been correctly functioning at the end of the last day of the six-week period because it had not been accessible to him. He argued that, in accordance with Kaur v S Russell and Sons Ltd [1973], the due date for filing should be extended.

Deputy judge Alice Robinson noted that in Kaur, the time period had been extended by one day because the limit for submission had fallen on a non-working day. These circumstances did not apply in the current case because the claimant had attempted to submit the claim before the time expired and had been physically prevented from doing so, she held. She noted that litigants were already deprived of several hours at the end of the final day because the courts did not stay open until midnight, when the time limits expired.

The judge accepted that a host of questions arose where a court office was not operating normal hours. She rejected the claimant’s argument that where a court office was inaccessible, the period for filing a claim should be extended until it became accessible, since it is difficult to define what is meant by "inaccessible" meant she opined. Neither could she agree with the secretary of state that opening hours should be used as a basis for assessing whether a court office was operating normally.

In her opinion, however, litigants had to anticipate security procedures and the need to obey security staff directions. If the claimant had been allowed into the building but had got stuck in a queue, she reasoned, his position would have been no different. She found no reasonable basis for supposing that Parliament had intended litigants in the claimant’s situation to be able to serve a claim the next day.

Croke v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

Ref: [2016] EWHC 2484 (Admin) 

Date: 11 October 2016

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