The High Court today began a new scheme with the aim of reaching trial within 10 months of a case being brought.
The shorter-trial scheme will resolve disputes on a commercial timescale, using the same judge from beginning to end and limiting trials to four days. Judgment will be made within six weeks of the trial concluding.
The scheme is not mandatory, although the courts may encourage parties to take part, and claimants are required to ‘opt in’.
Defendants will have 14 days from notification that a claimant wants a shorter trial to respond to the request. If the defendant files an acknowledgement of service stating that they wish to dispute the court’s jurisdiction, the period for serving and filing a defence is 28 days after filing of the acknowledgement of service.
Particulars of claim for shorter trials should be no more than 20 pages in length, with the court agreeing to more only if there is good reason.
Another initiative to bring in more flexible trials will also start, allowing for a more simple and speedy trial in cases where both sides agree.
The two-year test will be implemented in all Rolls Building courts, including the commercial court, the technology and construction court, the court of the Chancery division and the mercantile court.
Lord chief justice Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd (pictured) said the schemes are designed to help small and medium-sized businesses resolve disputes more cheaply.
‘This introduction of this judge-led reform will help to ensure that court users can have their disputes resolved quickly, improving access to justice for businesses,’ he said.
The judiciary hopes to encourage a change in litigation culture to recognise that comprehensive disclosure and a full, oral trial are not always necessary. This change will then lead to significant savings in time and cost, judges say.
The schemes are intended for commercial and business cases, which do not require extensive disclosure, witness or expert evidence, with the first cases expected to be heard in 2016.
The scheme will operate within a new specialist list dealing with complex financial markets cases. But a spokesperson for the Judicial Office said it would not be restricted to cases on the list, which is expected to begin work on Monday.