CE-File, the courts' electronic working system, was initially launched in the Technology and Construction Court in June 2015, as part of a pilot scheme that has been ongoing and widened to all courts in the Rolls Building since that date.
CE-File allows you to issue claims, make applications, file documents and communicate with the court electronically 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
CE-File will become compulsory in the Rolls Building's courts in London from Tuesday 25 April 2017. From that date, in those courts, you will no longer be able to issue or file claims or applications by email (outside of the CE File system), or in hard copy ie by hand or by post.
You need to be ready to use the electronic system or you could find yourself missing a key deadline or even potentially being subject to an adverse costs order for causing delay.
Here, we answer some of the most common questions about getting started on CE-File to help you avoid costly delays and mistakes.
1. Which courts are affected by CE-File becoming compulsory on 25 April 2017?
CE filing currently applies only to courts in the Rolls Building in London being the Chancery, Commercial, Technology and Construction, Mercantile and Admiralty courts.
As set out above, from 25 April 2017, in those courts, it will no longer be possible to issue or file claims or applications by email outside of the CE File system, or in hard copy by hand or by post.
2. How do you get started on CE-File?
Registration is easy and quick via www.ce-file.uk and there's a link on the home page to a guide issued by the courts. If you use any of the courts in the Rolls Building, get registered on CE-File now rather than post 25 April 2017, when you may be under time pressure to meet particular deadlines. Once registered, you can file documents, issue claims etc.
3. Once registered, how do you get access to a particular case or proceedings?
Once registered on CE-File, you will initially only have access to documents in the public domain, i.e. subject to the rules already in place for non-party access under the Civil Procedure Rules CPR 5.4C .
There are currently three ways to get access to a particular case:
3.1 file a document on an existing claim or issue a new claim (eg under Part 7, Part 8, Part 20 etc);
3.2 file a letter on CE File via the Misc Filing facility stating that you are appointed to represent a party in an ongoing case and that you request access to the case on CE-File;
3.3 be given access to a case by a colleague in your organisation who already has access to that case.
Once you have access, you will be able to view all documents filed on those proceedings by either party (subject to any issues of confidentiality).
4. Are the rules on the confidentiality (or not) of court documents different on CE-File?
Practically speaking - when you are filing a document on CE-File, you will have the option to tick a box to indicate a request to the court that your filing remains confidential. This does not guarantee confidentiality - your request will be considered by the court i.e. the same position as now.
If your request is granted, the other party to the proceedings will not be able to view the actual document(s) filed, but may be able to see on CE-File that a confidential filing has been made.
5. Deadlines and service - do the same requirements apply?
In short, yes:
- If your court order requires you for example to file by 4:00pm on a particular day, then you still have to file by 4:00pm on that day.
- If the CPR provide for you to serve a document, then the obligation to serve still remains with you.
Taking a claim form, for example, once it is issued you will be able to download a copy of the sealed form for service. Be aware that if you then want to serve by email or fax (rather than post or by hand), you will still need the other side's explicit agreement to this method of service i.e. no change to the current rule Practice Direction PD 6A.
6. In terms of limitation is there any advantage to using CE-File?
In terms of issuing proceedings on the last day of the limitation period, there does appear to be an anomaly arising from the fact that CE-File is (in principle) available 24 hours a day every day of the year i.e. a benefit to those using CE-File that is not available to those who cannot use CE-File (courts outside the Rolls Building).
The key question is this: would the use of CE filing in effect give a claimant an extra chunk of "bonus time" to file by using CE-File after 4:00pm on a particular day?
We raised this point with court representatives last year and the answer from the court was yes - as long as the filing is made before midnight on that day, it will be deemed to have taken place in time.
This seems surprising and we suspect that the point will be tested in due course.
In any event, err on the side of caution and file well in advance of 4:00pm. If 4:00pm has been and gone, file via CE-File; you have nothing to lose and potentially, you might save the claim...
7. How to pay court fees on CE-File
Payment of fees on CE-File is straightforward - there are two methods:
- by credit card; or
- using an HM Courts & Tribunals Service Fee Account - this can be set up in advance and is likely to make sense for organisations that regularly pay court fees.
8. Which procedural rules apply to CE-File?
Currently, the procedure and rules set out in PD 51O apply to CE-File but it is likely that a new Practice Direction will be issued to take effect on 25 April 2017 (as PD 51O covers the Electronic Working Pilot Scheme).
When using CE-File, you will need to comply with the relevant CE filing Practice Direction which will cover procedural and practical requirements, such as the size (in megabytes) of documents that can be filed on the system.
Additionally, you will need to consult the current guide issued by the particular court you are issuing/filing in eg the Technology and Construction Court Guide, the Chancery Court Guide etc.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.