Justice in Cyprus is currently in the process of significant transformation through the reform of the Cyprus Civil Procedure Rules. The primary objectives of this reform are to expedite legal proceedings and rectify any shortcomings within the legal framework in Cyprus. To achieve these goals, the new Rules have introduced various mechanisms to enable the courts to handle each case efficiently.
The Supreme Court decided to adopt a fresh set of Civil Procedure Rules, a significant project supported by the Structural Reform Support Service (SRSS) of the European Commission. The Irish Institute of Public Administration (IPA) was tasked with comprehensively reviewing these rules. To facilitate this, an Expert Group was formed, led by the Rt. Hon. Lord Dyson, the former Head of England and Wales Civil Court of Appeal (the Master of the Rolls).
The Expert Group’s efforts resulted in creating a preliminary draft of Civil Procedure Rules, drafted in English and modeled after the existing English Civil Procedure Rules. This draft was submitted to the Supreme Court in June 2019. Subsequently, a committee comprising judges from various levels, advocates, and a senior registrar reviewed the proposed Civil Procedure Rules to ensure their alignment with contemporary litigation needs.
After this review stage, the Rules were translated into Greek and officially approved by the Supreme Court on May 19, 2021, with publication in the Official Gazette. The implementation of these new Civil Procedure Rules commenced in September 2023.
Upon a thorough examination of Parts 7 to 30, it becomes evident that the new Civil Procedure Rules are based on the adversarial system of Common Law, which is the system employed by the Civil Courts of the Republic. This is the same system that underpins the current Civil Procedure Rules. Therefore, the new Rules do not introduce an entirely new procedural framework that would be unfamiliar to legal practitioners.
Much like the existing Rules, proceedings under the new Rules begin with the submission of a claim form as outlined in Part 7 or, alternatively, under Part 8. Similarly, the new Rules include provisions for the subsequent filing of an acknowledgment of service and a statement of the case, which should be well-recognized by legal practitioners. In this regard, the new Rules are built upon a well-known structure; as previously mentioned, they reflect the adversarial system, which is, without a doubt, the foundation of Cyprus’s legal system.
The New Civil Rules
The new Rules represent a contemporary refinement of the existing Rules, but they significantly expand on their provisions. They enhance the civil procedure code by introducing the “overriding objective” concept and granting the court “case management powers,” which are not present in the current Rules.
The overriding objective encompasses several principles united under a single goal: “handling a case fairly and at a reasonable cost.” Simultaneously, it imposes a duty on the parties to assist the court in advancing this overriding objective.
Furthermore, the court will now have the ability to manage cases actively. New, specific powers for case management have been granted to the court, which it can use at its discretion, even without a request from the parties involved. The court’s role in active case management is so substantial that, in pursuit of managing the case effectively and promoting the overriding objective, it may take any necessary action or issue any relevant orders as it deems fit. Consequently, case management empowers the court to provide guidance for the efficient and prompt handling of cases, ultimately leading to a fixed trial date.
Another noteworthy addition can be found in Part 44 of the new Rules, which explicitly addresses arbitration and provides a comprehensive outline of the procedure for initiating arbitration proceedings.
To illustrate, Part 44.3 of the new Rules covers the initial steps in the commencement process, which commences with the submission of an arbitration claim form as specified in Part 8 of the new Rules. It also outlines the option for a party to request the suspension of ongoing court proceedings from the relevant court handling those matters. Additionally, as per Part 44.4 of the new Rules, the arbitration claim form must include various details, such as the nature of the remedies sought the issues for which the claimant seeks an award, and information about the defendants.
Furthermore, under Part 44.5, the Cyprus Courts have the authority to order the service of an arbitration claim form beyond their jurisdiction. They may also authorize the service of such a form to the legal representatives of a party involved in the arbitration process.
Pre-Action Protocols and Pre-Trial Conduct
The new Rules introduce various “Pre-action Protocols” and establish guidelines for “Pre-Trial Conduct” to be followed when a Pre-action Protocol does not apply.
Specifically, Pre-action Protocols outline the necessary steps that parties must take before bringing a matter to court. These protocols are applicable in cases involving specific monetary claims, road accidents, and personal injury claims. They typically involve the exchange of demand and reply to letters. If a party fails to adhere to the steps outlined in these Pre-action Protocols, it may face penalties in the form of expenses and costs during subsequent judicial proceedings.
In cases where a Pre-action Protocol does not apply, the parties are expected to act reasonably when exchanging information and documents related to the claim in question. The goal is to prevent the need for court proceedings.
It’s important to recognize that the new Rules bring forth pre-action guidelines. These related Protocols are designed to facilitate the early resolution of disputes before formal legal proceedings commence. Furthermore, negotiations, Alternative Dispute Resolution, mediation, and arbitration all play significant roles in this process. Concerning the costs associated with interim steps in a case, they are determined according to the “pay as you go” principle, ensuring that litigants are aware of their ongoing cost obligations.
In summary, the primary and substantial changes introduced by the Civil Procedure Rules require a fundamental shift in the overall culture of civil litigation. Judges and advocates will now approach cases with the understanding that they must proactively address them using the mechanisms provided by the new Rules. This approach aims to ensure expeditious and fair case handling, thus helping reduce the backlog of pending cases.
The above article is purely informative in nature and in no way constitutes legal advice or opinion regarding the New Civil Procedure Rules. Our law firm provides services and specialized advice on various litigation areas and can represent clients in all Districts of the Republic of Cyprus. You can reach us by calling +357 24 727313 or email [email protected].