The Civil Procedure Rules in England & Wales are known as the CPR, and are also known to lawyers as either the White Book or The Green Book, which is already a confusing start !
The White Book is the same rules, but slanted slightly towards higher value, High Court claims, whereas the Green Book are used for most cases in the County Courts, which deal with the vast majority of claims in England & Wales, due to the lower value of the claims.
The Rules cover process but also specific rules for different types of claims, whether personal injury or property possession claims through to divorce and many other areas.
The Rules are highly complex and run to over 500 pages, and can make litigation disputes even more complex than the underlying legal disputes. Until the internet, to buy a copy of the rules would mean an outlay of several hundred pounds but they can now be found here.
It is not unusual, and for understandable reasons, for litigants in person to attend court and state they are unaware of the rules and therefore should be absolved from compliance or for having ignored the rules, which deal with process but also some issues of substance. As with all ares of law, ignorance is not a defence, so it is not safe to adopt such an approach. However, with small claims court cases, the Judge will generally spell out what needs to be done and in terms of the basic “nuts and bolts” of a case, such as disclosing documents, preparing witness statements and so forth, these items are generally included in court directions.
Where things can become more complicated is in areas such as rules for service of documents for certain types of cases, the rules on what documents must be disclosed by either party, applications for summary judgment and enforcement of judgments.
In essence, if you have a complicated case, a case which is not a straightforward debt collection case or one where more than £5,000.00 is in dispute, a good reason to at least consult a solicitor is due to the CPR because it is incredibly difficult to understand and navigate the CPR without knowledge and experience. Whilst there has been progress in making the civil courts and civil process more accessible to non-lawyers, the CPR is one area where there are still difficulties. litigation is complex, different cases require different rules, but it is important to recognise that these rules are still impenetrable to most non-lawyers, in terms of the sheer number of them , which cases apply and in terms of the legal language involved in the drafting of the rules also.