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High Court launches pilot programme for speedier justice

Business to benefit from short trials and flexible case management

1 October 2015

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A new initiative aimed at making commercial litigation cheaper and simpler is to be introduced by judges in the High Court.

The pilot programme is intended for commercial and business cases in the Rolls Building which do not require extensive disclosure, witness, or expert evidence in court.

The Shorter Trial scheme will resolve disputes on a commercial timescale. Cases will be dealt with by the same judge from beginning to end with the aim of reaching trial within ten months. The maximum length of trial would be four days.

The Flexible Trial scheme, meanwhile, will allow for more flexible case management where both sides agree, resulting in a simplified and speedier trial than is currently provided for.

Many of the procedures that will be followed in the pilot are already available under the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) but are not always applied comprehensively in the same case.

The pilot pulls together these two approaches to case management into distinct schemes, which the parties can adopt to improve access to justice in commercial disputes.

The two schemes will commence at the start of the new term in October 2015 and are scheduled to last for the next two years with the expectation of encouraging a change in litigation culture.

Judges hope recognition will be given to comprehensive disclosure and that a full, oral trial on all issues is often not necessary for justice to be achieved. This will, in theory, lead to significant savings in the time and costs of litigation.

The scheme will run in the Commercial Court, the Technology and Construction Court, the courts of the Chancery Division, and the Mercantile Court.

The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, said: 'Small and medium-sized businesses are the lifeblood of the economy. To prosper, they need disputes to be resolved in a speedy, fair and economic way.

'The 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 .'

John van der Luit-Drummond is deputy editor for Solicitors Journal
john.vanderluit@solicitorsjournal.co.uk | @JvdLD

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Company, Consumer, and Contract Procedures Courts & Judiciary