Core reform in civil litigation in Cyprus is underway with the implementation of the Civil Procedure Rules (draft of 2020) (the “Rules”) which will enter into force in September 2023, as announced by the Supreme Court of Cyprus.
This marks a substantial review and modernisation of the Rules since the 1950s when the Rules currently applicable were introduced. The project was supported by the EU (DG REFORM of the European Commission and the Council of Europe) following the assessment concluded in administration reform and development by the Institute of Public Administration (Ireland), with Rt. Hon. Lord Dyson leading the experts team appointed.
The guiding drafts issued, based on the English rules, were translated and extensively further reviewed by the Rules Committee in Cyprus, formed by the Supreme Court, consisting of 5 senior judges, 5 lawyers and a Court registrar, the Committee on Civil Procedure Rules and Reform of the Cyprus Bar Association and other local stakeholders, leading to the approval of the final draft by the Supreme Court on 19th May 2021.
The approved draft is currently available to the public on the website of the Supreme Court, pending publication in the Official Gazette of the Republic within the beginning of 2023.
Currently, the authorities are preparing the implementation of the new Rules by arranging trainings to members of the judiciary, lawyers and Court registrars in achieving a smooth transition to the new procedural framework.
The predominant aim of the project is to contribute in strengthening the rule of law and the fast administration of justice in Cyprus, thus improving the level of backlogs and other deficiencies in civil litigation. This is reflected in the overriding objective codified in Part 1 of the new Rules, which states that the purpose of the Rules is to enable the Court to deal with cases justly and at proportionate cost, with the parties themselves being required to help the Court to further this objective.
The new Rules set the general framework of the Court’s powers in actively managing cases and seeing that cases are indeed dealt with justly and at proportionate cost. Courts are further enshrined with additional powers aligned with this duty, such as the power to issue an order on the judge’s own motion with respect to the effective control of a case pending before the Court.
Pre-action Protocols, which are introduced for the first time in the Cyprus legal system, are of particular importance as they introduce the guiding principles on the pre-action conduct that the parties shall engage into prior to commencing judicial proceedings. One of the novelties that the Rules introduce lies particularly on the inclination to enter into such pre-action engagement which shall be taken into consideration by the Court in case the parties do not comply, thus bringing a fundamental change of culture in litigation and the role of Courts. The Pre-action Protocols provide that these set the common and reasonable approach of the pre-action conduct of the parties and it shall be expected that these will be complied with. The aim of the Protocols is to promote the pre-action correspondence between the parties, encourage the prompt and sufficient exchange of information under the protection that documents disclosed by the parties cannot be used for any other purpose but for the resolution of the dispute (unless the person disclosing such document agrees), advance pre-action investigation of matters, promote out-of-Court settlement of disputes and in any case, support the efficient management of proceedings if Court action cannot be avoided. Parties shall comply with the provisions of an approved Protocol and in case of failure to do so, the Court may take this into consideration in exercising its powers, including the imposition of sanctions and relevant orders as to costs. Cases which do not fall under a particular approved Protocol do not discharge the parties from the obligation to act accordingly. Parties are further required to enter into negotiations aiming at settling the dispute and avoiding Court proceedings, an obligation which extends even after the commencement of judicial proceedings.
Another remarkable change is the introduction of statements of truth in pleadings, witness statements and such other documents as required. Such statement confirms that the party believes that the matters stated in a document are true and accurate. Failure to provide such statement may lead to the striking out of a document and in any case, such document cannot be relied upon as evidence. Proceedings for contempt of Court pursuant to section 44 of the Courts of Justice Law, L. 14/1960 can be brought accordingly against a person who makes or causes to make a false statement in a document verified by a statement of truth, thus underlying the importance and related implications of a potential false statement to the parties themselves.
Part 35 orders are further introduced in the Cyprus legal system, which aim at encouraging parties to settle disputes at any time whilst proceedings are pending, prior to the commencement of the trial on the merits of the case. This provision is put in context to encourage defendants to seek settlement whilst protecting the offeror with respect to costs if the offer is not accepted. Courts can make any relevant order as to costs where the Court awards a lower amount as damages than the amount stated in the offer or where it appears to the Court that the claimant acted unreasonably in not accepting the offer. The offer and its particulars are not disclosed to the Court until the issues of liability and damages are fully decided, pending determination of the costs and interest to be awarded.
The Rules overall are designed to provide a comprehensive procedural framework in all aspects of civil litigation, including provisions on interim remedies, disclosure, evidence in general, expert evidence and costs, whilst codifying the factors that the Court shall take into consideration upon exercising its discretionary powers in advancing the overriding objective.
Reform, as briefly outlined above, is welcome and targeted at specific areas that practice has shown that change is indeed required. The new Rules are expected to give the tools to Courts to actively engage in the effective case management of litigation cases towards achieving proper administration of justice whilst bringing a remarkable change in litigation culture among practitioners and litigants in Cyprus.
The content of this article is valid as at the date of its first publication. It is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter and does not constitute legal advice. We recommend that you seek professional advice on your specific matter before acting on any information provided. For further information or advice, please contact Constantina Zantira, Senior Associate at Limassol office, Tel 25363685 or email email@example.com.