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Court of Appeal hears appeal by Good Law Project over ruling that PPE judicial review claim form not validly served

The Court of Appeal is today hearing an appeal by the Good Law Project (GLP) against a High Court judge’s finding that the claim form for a PPE contract award judicial review challenge was not validly served.

In The Good Law Project, R (On the Application Of) v The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care [2021] EWHC 1782 (TCC) Mrs Justice O’Farrell rejected the GLP’s application for an order correcting a procedural irregularity.

The High Court judge had suggested that the failure to effect valid service within the time specified by CPR 54.7 was “serious and significant”.

The judicial review claim concerns the award of contracts for PPE valued at £130m to Pharmaceuticals Direct Limited.

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The GLP contends that these contract awards were tainted by apparent bias and amounted to breaches of regs 18 and 32 of the Public Contracts Regs 2015 due to lack of transparency and equal treatment in the contract awards.

The claim was set aside by Mrs Justice O’Farrell on basis of ineffective service of the claim form in circumstances where the sealed claim form had been served on the date of issue on the relevant GLD caseholders but not on a particular email address to which the claimant had previously sent an unsealed copy of the claim form after it had been filed.

The judge refused to correct the error of procedure, validate service on the caseholders or extend time for service by one day on basis that the error was a careless mistake and the defendant would be deprived of a limitation defence if time were extended.

The GLP submitted that the judge erred as when considering CPR 6.15 she failed to apply Supreme Court authority or take into account the wider public interest; likewise she failed to take into account those issues when considering CPR 3.1(2)(a).

The appeal is being heard by Lord Justice Underhill (Vice President of the Court of Appeal – Civil Division), Lord Justice Phillips and Lady Justice Carr. The livestream is here.

Jo Maugham, Director of the Good Law Project, tweeted that the failure by solicitors acting for the public interest litigation organisation to email the correct service address had been “inadvertent”. The underlying PPE transactions were “very troubling”, he insisted.

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