Business and Property Courts Open for Business
In a move designed to improve the experience of Court users, in particular businesses, changes to the way in which High Court and some County Court cases involving business and property matters are dealt with came into force at the end of last year.
The Business and Property Courts, as they are known, have been created as a single umbrella for various specialist jurisdictions including the Business List, the Commercial Court and the Technology and Construction Court.
Business and Property Courts have been established in London but also in the major regional legal centres including Bristol, which will deal with such cases in the South West. Although the changes primarily affect High Court cases, County Court cases that fall within the ambit of the Business and Property Courts will be heard by specialist County Court Judges in the Business and Property Courts List.
Where cases are issued which fall within the jurisdiction of the Business and Property Courts, the Claimant will be asked to identify which hearing centre is appropriate and will be expected to nominate the hearing centre for the relevant region, for South West purposes Bristol. In instances in which a business in the South West has a dispute with a business in another region, the Court may decide to transfer the case to the hearing centre in that other region. There are a number of factors for the Court to weigh up and determine the most appropriate location, in particular where the dispute arose, where any land, goods or other assets are located and where witnesses are based.
One of the purposes of the creation of the Business and Property Courts (and the Business and Property Courts List in the County Court) is to ensure that cases are wherever possible dealt with in the region to which they have links, rather than being dealt with in London. The aim is to ensure that cases can be dealt with in the regions and by appropriately specialist Judges. Depending upon the specific location of a business in the South West, it may be as simple to have a case dealt with in London as it is to have it dealt with in Bristol, including in relation to travel time. However, in principle, it should be a positive for cases to be able to dealt with in the South West region without the parties to the case having to travel to London with all the expense, time and inconvenience which that can bring.
Cases will be actively managed by Judges. Cases may be transferred between the County Court and High Court dependent upon the amount involved, the complexity of the case and how swiftly the case can be . An aim is to avoid unnecessary delay whilst ensuring a sufficient level of specialism in the Judge dealing with the case.
It remains to be seen whether everything will go smoothly. Changes to the Courts are not guaranteed to come in without any teething problems. However, the intentions behind the move are sound and it is to be hoped that with the creation of the Business and Property Courts and with the use of a hearing centre in Bristol and suitably specialist Judges, this will help to safeguard the quality of decisions in business and commercial disputes and will ensure that appropriate judgments are made.
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