Common sense guidance on relief from sanctions

5 December, 2014

The Court of Appeal in Denton v TH White Ltd [2014] EWCA Civ 906 has issued guidance in the form of a three stage test to be applied in applications for relief from sanctions pursuant to CPR 3.9.


This test ‘clarifies’ the Mitchell guidelines and requires the court to:


  • Identify and assess the seriousness of the non-compliance. Is the breach “serious or significant”? If not, relief would usually be granted. 
  • If it is, why did the default occur? 
  • Consider all the circumstances of the case in order to deal with the application “justly”, including (a) the need for litigation to be conducted efficiently and at proportionate cost and (b) the need to enforce compliance with rules, directions and court orders.


There is relief amongst most practitioners that the new guidance appears to offer a return to a less draconian approach by the courts in relation to relatively minor procedural breaches. The court also emphasised that CPR 1.3 requires parties to help the court further the overriding objective and those who opportunistically and unrealistically opposed relief from sanctions breached that obligation.