High Court Considers Striking Out Defence in Saeed Akbar v Mohammed Sajead Ghaffar Case for Non-Compliance with CPR 16.5

Citation: [2024] EWHC 50 (Ch)
Judgment on

Introduction

In the case of Saeed Akbar v Mohammed Sajead Ghaffar & Anor, presided over by HHJ Cawson KC, the High Court of Justice was confronted with the issue of whether to strike out the defendants’ defence due to non-compliance with Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) 16.5. This decision hinged on the effectiveness of case management and the just disposal of the case. The court employed principles from Mitchell/Denton and examined the seriousness of the breaches, reasons provided for non-compliance, and all relevant case circumstances.

Key Facts

The claimant, Saeed Akbar, alleged that sums exceeding £4 million were entrusted to the defendants for investment purposes but were subsequently misapplied or misappropriated, giving rise to claims of breach of trust, contract, and deceit. After failing to respond comprehensively to the claims, the defendants, acting primarily in person, faced an application for strike-out of their defence. The court considered whether the defence had sufficiently addressed each allegation in the Particulars of Claim as required by CPR 16.5, evaluating the nature of any breaches and remedies within the procedural framework.

The legal principles invoked in this case revolved around the interpretation and application of CPR 16.5 concerning the contents of the defence, and CPR 3.4(2)(b) and (c) regarding strike-out for abuses of process and non-compliance with rules or court orders. The court scrutinized the defence across multiple claims, with considerable weight given to the clarity of the defendants’ position and the identification of issues for trial.

In consideration of the defendants’ conduct and response to the allegations, the court turned to the three-stage test from the Mitchell/Denton framework, assessing:

  1. The seriousness and significance of the breach.
  2. The reason for the breach.
  3. All the circumstances of the case to enable the application of the sanction that is just and proportionate.

Furthermore, the court noted that while litigants in person may receive some level of leniency in compliance with rules and orders, this indulgence has limits, highlighting the importance of rule adherence for proper case management and disposition.

Outcomes

After a thorough evaluation of the defendants’ responses to the allegations, the court identified several instances of serious and significant non-compliance with CPR 16.5. Consequently, HHJ Cawson KC ordered the strike-out of significant portions of the defence that failed to adequately deal with the claimant’s allegations, thereby hindering the fair and efficient progression of the case.

Despite this, the court acknowledged the gravity of the consequences for the defendants and extended leniency by allowing a final, narrowly-defined opportunity for remedy. The court provided a 14-day window for the defendants to submit an application seeking permission to amend the defence with a draft that appropriately addresses the Particulars of Claim in compliance with CPR 16.5.

The judgment included the possibility of declaratory relief on a default basis. Referencing Montlake Qiaif Platform ICAV v Tiber Capital and others, the court found that under certain conditions, declaratory relief without a full trial might be the most effective resolution, provided it does not impact third-party interests.

Conclusion

The case reinforces the judiciary’s commitment to maintaining stringent adherence to procedural rules to ensure just and efficient case management. It emphasizes the delicate balance courts strike in safeguarding the integrity of litigation procedures, while providing equitable consideration for unrepresented litigants. The decision to strike out substantial parts of the defence reflects a firm position on compliance, albeit with a cautious provision for an ultimate remedy, thus upholding the principles of justice and fair play within the UK’s legal framework.

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