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Cropper v Smith (1884) 26 Ch. D. 700 (CA), had a surprising (if short-lived) resurrection in Prince Abdulaziz v Apex Global Management Ltd  [2014] UKSC 64. Cropper was well known in the context of permission to appeal. It was raised to try suggest the general approach that the court should take when dealing with relief from sanctions (see CPR 3.9)

Bowen LJ said,

“Now, I think it is a well established principle that the object of Courts is to decide the rights of the parties, and not to punish them for mistakes they make in the conduct of their cases by deciding otherwise than in accordance with their rights. Speaking for myself, and in conformity with what I have heard laid down by the other division of the Court of Appeal and by myself as a member of it, I know of no kind of error or mistake which, if not fraudulent or intended to overreach, the Court ought not to correct, if it can be done without injustice to the other party. Courts do not exist for the sake of discipline, but for the sake of deciding matters in controversy, and I do not regard such amendment as a matter of favour or of grace. Order XXVIII. rule 1, of the Rules of 1883, which follows previous legislation on the subject, says that,

“All such amendments shall be made as may be necessary for the purpose of determining the real questions in controversy between the parties.”

It seems to me that as soon as it appears that the way in which a party has framed his case will not lead to a decision of the real matter in controversy, it is as much a matter of right on his part to have it corrected, if it can be done without injustice, as anything else in the case is a matter of right… The question seems to me to be this, Can you by the imposition of any terms place the other side in as good a position for the purpose of having the question of right determined as they were in at the time when the mistake of judgment was committed? It does not seem to me material to consider whether the mistake of judgment was accidental or not, if not intended to overreach. There is no rule that only slips or accidental errors are to be corrected. The rule says,

“All such amendments shall be made as may be necessary for the purpose of determining the real questions in controversy.”

I have found in my experience that there is one panacea which heals every sore in litigation, and that is costs. I have very seldom, if ever, been unfortunate enough to come across an instance, where a person has made a mistake in his pleadings which has put the other side to such a disadvantage as that it cannot be cured by the application of that healing medicine. Here I fail even to see that the Respondents want costs to remedy any grievance, because they have been put to none. The case has been fought exactly in the same way as it would have been fought if Mr. Hancock had delivered particulars of objection, and therefore it seems to me that he ought to be allowed to amend.” [p710/711]

As indicated the revival was very brief. Lord Neuberger said

“[the Prince] relied on Cropper v Smith (1884) 26 Ch D 700 , 710, where Bowen LJ said that he knew of “no kind of error or mistake which, if not fraudulent or intended to overreach, the court ought not to correct, if it can be done without injustice to the other party”. There are three problems for the Prince in this connection. The first is that these observations were made in connection with a proposed amendment to a pleading, ie an attempt by a litigant to do something which he would be entitled to do, but to do it late; whereas here we are concerned with a party who does not even now intend to obey a court order. Secondly, as the points made in the last few sentences of the immediately preceding paragraph of this judgment illustrate, there would be prejudice to the other parties if the Prince’s current proposal was adopted. Thirdly and even more importantly, the approach laid down in Cropper v Smith has been overtaken by the CPR.” [ para 27]

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