A Guide to Norwich Pharmacal Orders (NPO)

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A Norwich Pharmacal Order (NPO) is an order which compels an innocent third party to provide information about another party who may have been mixed up in “wrongdoing”.

What is an NPO?

An NPO is a type of order which can only be obtained by an application to court. If granted, the order will compel the respondent (the third party) to disclose certain documents or pieces of relevant information to the applicant.

These orders are typically used by a party to identify the proper defendant to an action or obtain information required to plead a claim.

Take the example where your business has an action against a third party for defamation who is using an internet service provider to anonymously post defamatory content about your business, causing it to lose potential clients and revenue. In order to find out who the third party is, your business could apply for an NPO to oblige the internet service provider to provide the information they have about the third party, which could reveal their identity and enable your business to bring a claim.

Who is the order made against?

The order is typically made against a party who is not likely to be a party to the eventual proceedings. The respondent is usually merely mixed up in the “wrongdoing”.

When will it be granted?

An NPO will only be granted where it is necessary to serve the interests of justice. The court will consider a range of factors when deciding whether to award the order, which is discussed in further detail below.

An NPO can be applied for before proceedings are issued, during the course of legal action, and after the proceedings have been concluded.

What factors will be taken into account?

An NPO is a discretionary remedy and because it is a potentially very intrusive measure, the Court will balance the rights and interests of each party to decide whether or not the order ought to be granted.

The Court will generally consider:

  1. whether a “wrong” has been carried out by the ultimate wrongdoer
  2. whether the person against whom the order is sought is involved in the wrongdoing and they are not a “mere witness” to the wrongdoing
  3. whether the applicant is genuinely trying to right a wrong by obtaining this information
  4. whether granting this remedy is necessary and proportionate given the circumstances of the case.

How long will it take?

The waiting time to obtain an NPO will vary depending on the complexity of the application and the court’s backlog. As a rule of thumb, one can expect it will take anywhere between 3 – 6 months to obtain.

Speak to our Dispute Resolution Solicitors today

Before proceeding to make an application to court you should take early advice on your specific circumstances and legal position to see whether obtaining this order is the best method to achieve your overall objectives.

If you would like advice in relation to a potential dispute please do get in contact with us to set up an initial consultation by filling out our online enquiry form or by calling 0330 404 0778.


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