The judiciary has announced a reorganisation of the higher civil courts that will allow judges to be deployed across a greater range of cases in their specialisms.
From June this year, the specialist courts and lists of the High Court will be known as the Business and Property Courts of England and Wales. The new arrangement encompasses the Commercial Court (including the Admiralty Court), the Technology and Construction Court and the courts of the Chancery Division.
The judiciary says the changes will preserve familiar practices and procedures of specialist courts but allow for more flexibility in where judges are deployed. Currently judges who are experts in a particular area are not readily deployed to sit in cases in that area in another court.
The new structure, together with the Financial List and the Shorter and Flexible Trial Scheme, is intended to ‘enhance the UK’s already respected reputation for international dispute resolution’ and help in the effort to stave off competition from other jurisdictions.
Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, the lord chief justice of England and Wales, said: ‘The judiciary is committed to maintaining Britain’s reputation as the best place in the world for court-based dispute resolution. These changes will ensure that our courts and judiciary continue to lead the world in this field.'
Business and Property Courts will also sit in Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Bristol and Cardiff, with expansions to Newcastle and Liverpool likely in the future.
Sir Brian Leveson, president of the Queen’s Bench Division, added: ‘Cross-deployment of judges across the Chancery and Queen’s Bench Divisions for the purposes of the Financial List has demonstrated the real value of flexible deployment in appropriate cases. This development will be of benefit both to the courts and the users of the courts.’
All the judges, masters, and registrars in bankruptcy of the Rolls Building will be involved in the Business and Property Courts, as will many judges in the specialist district registries of the High Court outside of London.
Lobby group TheCityUK said the reform is a forward-looking decision that gives greater clarity to users about the focus and coverage of legal services available at the courts.
Gary Campkin, director of policy and strategy, said: ‘High-value commercial dispute resolution is a competitive legal service, and other jurisdictions are vying to take Britain’s crown.
‘It is essential to ensure this country remains the jurisdiction of choice for international business and for dispute resolution. The efficient and cost-effective resolution of disputes is critical to that goal and to the ongoing development of English law.’