The High Court has rejected a defendant’s plea to have their case moved out of the shorter trial scheme – one of the first reported times a judge has intervened to block such a transfer.
In Excel-Eucan Ltd v Source Vagabond System Ltd, His Honour Judge Pearce said the issues involved were simple enough to be heard within four days, the upper limit as stipulated by the scheme. The defendant had estimated that the trial could take up to six days and was not eligible for a process that fast-tracks cases through the court.
The shorter trials scheme, introduced in 2015, creates a streamlined procedure with a docketed judge leading to judgment within 12 months of proceedings being issued.
HHJ Pearce said the issues in Excel-Eucan were complicated by the likelihood he would hear the case management conference but almost certainly not the trial. But he remained confident that the trial, featuring testimony from five witnesses, could be concluded within four days, including reading time.
‘It is of course always possible that developing issues may mean that that no longer remains the case in the future but that will be a matter for consideration in due course,’ said the judge. ‘If I anticipated more strongly that it was unlikely to be suitable to remain in the shorter trial scheme in the future I would transfer it out now but for the moment as things stand it seems to me that that is unlikely.’
The case arises from a manufacturer of army equipment contending the defendant is in repudiatory breach of a patent licence.
The defendant’s objection to proceeding in the shorter trial scheme was due to the complexity of the case, the need for disclosure and the likely length of trial.
The judge noted the practice direction for the scheme requires simplicity and brevity in the statements of case, and the defence and counter claim here went a ‘little bit beyond’ those bounds.
But he added: ‘That kind of complexity should not blind the court to the reality of what the shorter trial scheme is about which is whether the case can properly be contained within the trial estimate of no more than four days and whether it truly requires extensive disclosure and/or reliance upon extensive witness or expert evidence.’