From June this year, several specialist courts of the High Court of England and Wales are being banded together under a new title – “THE BUSINESS AND PROPERTY COURTS OF ENGLAND AND WALES”.

The idea is to give these specialised courts a memorable and (it is hoped) user-friendly umbrella title, whilst still preserving the value of the existing brands of the individual courts.

The specialist courts that will co-exist under this new umbrella comprise the Commercial Court (including the Admiralty and Mercantile Court), the Technology and Construction Court (“TCC”) and the various distinct courts which make up the Chancery Division (including the Bankruptcy and Companies Court).

The new title will not replace the existing individual names of the specialist courts per se but will appear as the new heading on court filings.

Cross-deployment of judges

The changes are envisaged to facilitate more widespread cross-deployment of specialist judges across the various jurisdictional lists so that specially qualified judges can sit in other courts when required, rather than being restricted to sitting in their own specialist courts, more often than not exclusively in London.

Enhanced regional involvement

Currently, lots of complex cases get transferred to London for inadequate reasons to be heard by judges sitting in the Rolls Building. It is hoped that by introducing greater flexibility and by building up a pool of specialist judges sitting in each of the new Business & Property Court regional centres, it should be easier for cases to remain and/or be transferred back to the regions for management and trial. The Judicial Executive Board has stated that no case should be too big to be tried outside London.

Practical differences

An immediate change that court users who currently e-file will see is that when issuing proceedings electronically, they will see reference to the Business and Property Courts of England and Wales and will then be asked to select which court or list they wish their case to be assigned to. The choice most relevant to restructuring and insolvency professionals will be the Company and Insolvency List (ChD).

New case titles

Actions in the High Court and the County Court will assume the new titles below:

If issued in the Rolls Building (London):

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE

BUSINESS AND PROPERTY COURTS OF ENGLAND AND WALES

COMPANY & INSOLVENCY LIST (ChD)

If issued in the regional centres:

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE

BUSINESS AND PROPERTY COURT IN MANCHESTER

COMPANY & INSOLVENCY LIST (ChD)

If issued in the County Court:

IN THE COUNTY COURT IN BRIGHTON

BUSINESS AND PROPERTY COURTS LIST

Summary

The key changes are as follows:

  • Business and Property Courts of England and Wales to be introduced as new umbrella title for all specialist courts
  • Greater deployment of specialist judges across the different court lists
  • More complex cases being dealt with in the regional centres.

England and Wales maintain a stellar reputation around the world for a having a clear and consistent civil court system with an expert judiciary. The changes brought about by the introduction of the Business and Property Courts is another improvement in a recent flurry of activity designed to streamline and modernise court processes and highlights an innovative and modern dispute resolution service which will continue to attract businesses from around the world to manage their disputes here.

More information can be found in the explanatory statement authored by Sir Geoffrey Vos (Chancellor of the High Court) and Sir Brian Leveson (President of the Queen’s Bench Division) and published by the Ministry of Justice.

The introduction of the Business and Property Courts comes hot on the tail of the recent introduction of (1) the new Insolvency Rules 2016 and (2) mandatory electronic filing for all professional users of the Rolls Building in London (see our recent blog The High Court in London goes digital). The Ministry of Justice is considering rolling CE-Filing out across the country, so that electronic filing will be mandatory in all courts by early 2018. Further legislation is expected to amend the Insolvency Rules 2016 (see our recent blog) and a new Insolvency Practice Direction is also in the pipeline to accommodate many of these changes – so watch this space as yet more changes are afoot!