Litigation and court trends: the new Business and Property Court of England and Wales
HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) is delivering a programme of reform to the courts between 2015 and 2020.
The reforms are intended to:
- Improve the efficiency and efficacy of the courts
- Deliver significant cost savings
- Maintain the competitiveness of the UK as a global dispute resolution centre
- The new Business and Property Court
As part of HMCTS’ proposed reforms, the Judicial Executive Board has approved plans for a number of specialist jurisdictions of the High Court of England and Wales to be known collectively as the “Business and Property Courts of England and Wales” (B&PC).
The B&PC will act as a single umbrella term for these specialist courts which will comprise the existing ‘Rolls Building Jurisdictions’ (which includes the Commercial Court, the Technology and Construction Court, and the Courts of the Chancery Division) and a number of specialist lists dealing with specific claims.
The B&PC will therefore unify the specialist courts across England and Wales, allowing for more flexible cross-deployment of judges with suitable expertise to sit on appropriate business and property cases.
The B&PC will operate in the five main regional centres where specialist business is undertaken:
From October 2017, claimants will be asked when issuing claims to say which court or list they wish the case to be assigned to and in which centre they wish to issue the proceedings.
A claimant will need to choose one of the following courts/lists:
- Commercial Court (QBD)
- Admiralty Court (QBD)
- Commercial Circuit Court (QBD) (replacing the Mercantile Court)
- Technology and Construction Court (QBD)
- Financial List (Chancery/QBD Commercial Court)
- Business List (Chancery)
- Company and Insolvency List (Chancery) (to include the Companies Court)
- Intellectual Property List (Chancery) (to including the Patents Court and IPEC)
- Trusts and Probate List (Chancery)
- Competition List (Chancery)
- Revenue List (Chancery).
Lord Justice Briggs has consistently recommended that no case should be too big to be tried outside of London. It seems that steps are finally being taken to ensure that the courts have the expertise to handle any type of claim in the regions.
The integrated B&PC structure should result in a number of specialist judges sitting in each of the regional centres, enabling claims to be managed and tried in the regions. This, when combined with the already shorter waiting times and effective case management by specialist judges, is likely to lead to cost savings and better access to justice for businesses and insurers in all areas of England and Wales.
The B&PC is therefore likely to bring a number of benefits, to include keeping costs down, to businesses and insurers. It also is anticipated that in the near future electronic issuing of claims, which has been available in London since earlier this year, will be extended into the regions by early 2018 making the process of commencing claims easier. It is also expected that the B&PC will be extended to Newcastle and Liverpool.
The creation of the B&PC is the latest in a string of changes to the courts in an attempt to modernise the system in England and Wales through innovation.
These changes started in 2015 with the creation of the Financial List, where cases are heard by a specialist judge with specific knowledge of the law relating to the financial markets, and the Shorter and Flexible Trial Scheme.
As Brexit approaches, the modernisation of the courts and the introduction of the B&PC is crucial to protect the UK’s status as a leading global dispute resolution centre and will facilitate flexible cross-deployment of judges.
These changes should ensure that the courts of England and Wales maintain the high quality service they are known for and that they continue to be attractive to both international and domestic litigants alike.