As of 2 October 2017, the High Court business specialist courts have rebranded. The Commercial Court, The Commercial Circuit Court (formerly the Mercantile Court), the Admiralty Court, the Technology and Construction Court of the Queen’s Bench Division and the courts comprising the Chancery Division are now together known as The Business and Property Courts of England and Wales (“B&PC”). The B&PC will now be an “umbrella” for all the above-mentioned courts.
The reason for this, according to the advisory note published on the Judiciary’s website, is that “The new arrangements will allow, over time, for greater flexibility in cross-deployment of judges with suitable expertise and experience to sit on appropriate business and property cases. It will also be simpler to issue claims in any of the B&PC’s and to transfer claims between the Rolls Building and the specialist courts in the regions”.
One of the aims is to enable the regional centres of Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Leeds and Manchester to “achieve a critical mass of specialist judges sitting in each of the Business & Property regional centres so that all classes of case can be managed and tried in those regions.” As Briggs LJ (now Lord Briggs) recommended, no case should be “too big to be tried outside of London”. The waiting times are significantly less in the regional centres and so it is hoped the change will take some of the strain from the courts based in London.
Changes in Practice
Practice and procedure will largely stay the same under the Civil Procedure Rules and with each court retaining their own procedural guides. In relation to claims issued before 2 October, the same Master or Judge will continue to manage these cases as before and they will retain their claim numbers.
In terms of the issue of new claims or transfer of claims from 2 October, the B&PC is subdivided into ten lists, some of which are further sub-divided into sub-lists:
|Admiralty Court||Admiralty Court||AD|
|Financial Servicesand Regulatory||FS|
|Commercial Court||Commercial Court||CL|
|London Circuit Commercial Court||LM|
|Competition List||Competition List||CP|
|Financial List||Financial List||FL|
|Insolvency & Companies||Bankruptcy||BR|
|Intellectual Property List||Intellectual Property||IL|
|Intellectual Property and Enterprise Court (IPEC)||IP|
|Property Trusts and Probate||Property Trusts and Probate||PT|
|Revenue List||Revenue List||RL|
|Technology and Construction Court||Technology and Construction Court||HT|
Of direct relevance to the banking/finance and restructuring/insolvency fraternity are the following courts/lists:
- Commercial Court - insurance and reinsurance, disputes over contracts and business documents, banking and financial services, agency and management agreements, sale of commodities
- Financial List - financial disputes of over £50m or which need expert judicial knowledge of financial markets or which raise important issues for the sector
- Business List - partnership, sale and purchase of businesses disputes involving shareholders and/or directors and/or business investors disputes, pensions, financial services
- Insolvency & Companies List - unfair prejudice petitions/shareholder disputes, applications for the confirmation of a reduction of capital, directors’ disqualification, applications concerning schemes of arrangement
As is therefore evident immediately above, the court/list names give a good indication of what kind of claim is dealt within the relevant court/list. However, this is not always necessarily obvious from the name alone and therefore the judiciary service has published some guidance to assist in ensuring the relevant court or list is chosen: https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/the-business-and-property-courts-advisory-note.pdf.
It is important to begin proceedings in the correct court not least because commencing proceedings in the wrong court can:
- delay proceedings;
- increase costs (which the court may order the claimant to pay/ lead to a reduction in any damages awarded); and
- at its most severe, cause the claim to be struck out.
We of course can assist (and in conjunction with our specialist dispute resolution team in relating to the other courts/lists) to guide any potential claimant on using the appropriate court on issue and navigating generally through the whole court process.