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R (The Good Law Project) v The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care [2021] EWHC 1782 (TCC) - Harry Peto, Temple Garden Chambers

13/07/21. This was a claim for judicial review in which the Claimant sought to challenge the lawfulness of the Defendant’s decisions to award contracts for the supply of personal protective equipment to the Interested Party, Pharmaceuticals Direct Ltd.

The Claimant had served an unsealed copy of the claim form to the ‘new proceedings’ email address of the Government Legal Department (“GLD”). A sealed claim form was then sent to three named solicitors from the GLD, one of whom confirmed receipt. The sealed claim form was not, however, sent to the ‘new proceedings’ address (within 7 days of issue by the Court, as required).

Service of the Claim Form

The Claimant applied for an order under CPR 6.15 that would render valid any late service of its claim form, alternatively for an extension of time for service. The Defendant applied for an order that the claim form be set aside for want of jurisdiction by reason of the late service of the claim form.

Decision

The Judge refused the Claimant’s application for an order under CPR 6.15, granting the Defendant’s application to set aside the claim form. The Claimant had failed to serve a sealed claim form at the designated email address in time. The fact that the Defendant was aware of the contents of the claim form within time was not relevant, as the Defendant would suffer prejudice in being deprived of a limitation defence. Further, the Claimant had not established a good reason why alternative service of the claim form ought to be authorised.

The Claimant’s application for an extension of time was also refused: CPR 7.6 did not apply to service of a claim form in judicial review proceedings. It was inappropriate to extend time in this instance following the Denton principles. The failure to effect valid service was serious and significant, as despite being only one day this was against a benchmark of 7 days. The reason for the failure was a careless mistake. Extending time would deprive the Defendant of any accrued limitation defence. It was relevant that there was a very tight deadline to challenge the lawfulness of public procurement contracts.

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