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Why a hearing is adjourned or a case struck out

This content applies to England & Wales

When the case may be struck out or the hearing adjourned.

There are various situations in which a case can be 'struck out' (dismissed) or the hearing can be adjourned (put off to a later date):

  • if no-one from the other side turns up, there will be grounds to have the case dismissed[1]
  • if the client is unable to attend at the last moment, for example because s/he is ill, an application to adjourn the hearing can be made. This simply means that when the case is called, the representative should ask the judge to adjourn and explain the reasons for asking for the adjournment. If the other side objects, an adjournment may be denied. If this is the case, it may be possible to appeal against the judge's decision (see the page Appealing against the decision for more information)[2]
  • if the claimant's case is not proved then the other party can apply for the case to be struck out
  • if the claimant's case is purely academic or 'totally without merit', the court can strike out the case of its own initiative
  • if facts are disputed and more evidence is needed, or there is not enough time available to hear the case fully, it is likely that the judge will order an adjournment and order each side to exchange evidence and statements before the next hearing (this is called giving directions)[3]
  • if it has been impossible to make a proper case because the other side has refused to give the information needed, the judge can be asked to adjourn the proceedings and give directions, including ordering the other side to provide the information required. This is called asking for 'disclosure' where the information is in the form of a document or correspondence, or for 'further particulars' where the information is part of a witness's oral evidence.

Judge's directions

Any directions by the judge will be given with timescales attached, and these must be adhered to. It is important to make a note of the directions and timescales.

Civil restraint orders

Where a case is struck out on the grounds that it is purely academic or 'totally without merit', the court must specify that fact in the order that it makes, and must consider whether to make a civil restraint order against the party who issued such a claim.[4] The order will prevent such a party from issuing further claims without the permission of the court and will specify the related conditions.

For example, in one case[5] the court made a civil restraint order against a tenant who, having exhausted his appeal procedure, tried to further delaying the execution of a possession order against him by making a fresh application for relief from forfeiture which the court found completely academic and without merit, as his lease had not been forfeited. The order prevented the tenant from issuing any new proceedings, applications or appeals for a period of two years, without first obtaining the permission of the court.

[1] Civil Procedure Rules, rule 39.3.

[2] Civil Procedure Rules, Part 3.

[3] Civil Procedure Rules, rule 55.8.

[4] Civil Procedure Rules, rule 3.11 and PD 3C.

[5] Anas v Arora [2012] EWHC 1488 (QB).

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