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The long-awaited new Practice Direction – Insolvency Proceedings (PDIP), which came into force on 25 April 2018, has now brought procedure into line with the changes introduced by the significant amendments to the Insolvency Act 1986 (the Act) introduced last year and the Insolvency (England and Wales) Rules 2016 (IR 2016), as amended. This has finally brought to an end the agonisingly long period (over 12 months) in which the provisions of the previous Practice Direction have been at odds with the Act as amended and IR 2016.
In addition to various modifications that were required to align procedure with IR 2016, the PDIP has also had to take account of other changes, most notably those brought about with the introduction of the Business and Property Courts, the Practice Direction associated with that, the changes to the Chancery Guide and the recent changes in the nomenclature of the Insolvency and Company Court Judges (ICC Judge(s); formerly High Court Bankruptcy Registrars). Many of the changes are relatively straightforward and no more than a simple realignment. We believe, however, that there are a few points of note in the PDIP worthy of slightly more careful attention.
1. The categories of applications which must be listed before a High Court Judge are narrower under PDIP – only applications for committal for contempt, freezing orders, search orders and ancillary orders under CPR 25.1(1)(g) must be listed before a High Court Judge (paragraph 3.3).
2. ICC Judges can now hear (paragraph 3.4):
3. A district judge in a County Court hearing centre with insolvency jurisdiction may hear applications to set aside statutory demands, unopposed creditors’ winding-up petitions or unopposed bankruptcy petition (referred to as “Local Business”). Other insolvency applications issued in a County Court are required to be transferred to be heard by a district judge in the relevant District Registry or an ICC Judge in the Royal Courts of Justice (paragraph 3.7-3.8).
4. Some of the categories of application which may be dealt with by court officials in the RCJ have changed – for details see PDIP paragraphs 10.1 and 13.1.
5. PDIP provides clarification on the application and effect of electronic filing under the Electronic Practice Direction 51O in certain proceedings.
6. The PDIP sets out a new regime in relation to the procedure on appeals. For the most part, these provisions are designed to accommodate the changes that were introduced shortly before IR 2016 and were then incorporated into r 12.59 and Schedule 10 to IR 2016 in relation to the destination of appeals in corporate insolvency. However, in one respect the changes introduced by the new provisions of PDIP go beyond those set out in IR 2016 and in fact contradict them.
7. There is some further useful guidance on where to file in each case in PDIP paragraph 19.
8. There is also some welcome clarification provided for the nature of “appeals” under s 263N(5) of the Act against the decision of the adjudicator. In line with the decision of (then) Chief Registrar Baister in Re Budniok  EWHC 368 (Ch), these are to be treated as the first hearing of the matter (i.e. not a “true appeal”) and no permission is required (paragraph 17.3).
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