New rule to emphasise that no Business & Property Courts case is “too big to be heard outside London”

BPCs: Transfer superhighway

There is to be a new part of the Civil Procedure Rules to deal with the launch of the Business and Property Courts (BPCs) to emphasise that no case is too big to be tried outside London, it has been decided.

Minutes of last month’s meeting of the Civil Procedure Rule Committee (CPRC) identified that what was originally going to be a practice direction introduced with the new structure on 2 October, in fact needed to be a new rule to accommodate some of the changes the BPCs are meant to introduce.

Prime among these are special provisions about transfer. A paper before the CPRC said: “This is an important aspect of the philosophy underpinning the BPCs, with a ‘superhighway’ between the Rolls Building and the regions, and with ‘no case being too big’ to be tried outside London.”

However, the provisions in the proposed practice direction were contrary to rule 30.2(6) by requiring the decision on transfer to be made by the sending court, while the intention behind the BPCs is that the receiving court should make the decision.

The CPRC was also told that a rule would enable electronic filing through CE-File across the BPCs in general, rather than just the Rolls Building, “very soon”.

Further, a rule may be needed to make the shorter and flexible trials pilot scheme – which comes to an end in October 2018 – permanent and introduce the recommendations of the working group on disclosure led by Lady Justice Gloster.

As a result, a part modelled on the Commercial Court, supplemented with the stand-alone BPC practice direction is being drafted.

On transfer, users are asked to identify in which centre they wish to issue the proceedings: the choice is in almost all cases between London, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Bristol and Cardiff. It is hoped that Newcastle and Liverpool will be added in due course.

A policy paper to the previous meeting of the CPRC, authored by Sir Geoffrey Vos, Chancellor of the High Court, said the idea behind the ‘superhighway’ was to have “a critical mass of specialist judges in each BPCs centre in the regions”, ensuring there was an integrated BPCs structure across England and Wales.

“In the past, a lack of sufficient high quality section 9 circuit judges and district judges has caused cases from certain regions to appear in the Rolls Building,” Sir Geoffrey wrote.

He said CPR 30.2 would apply as it did now, but listed factors that were particularly relevant for BPCs cases to test where there were “significant links” between the claim and the circuit in question.

These included whether:

  • One or more of the parties has its address or registered office in the circuit in question (with extra weight given to the address of any non-represented parties);
  • At least one of the witnesses giving testimony at trial is located in the circuit;
  • The dispute occurred in a location within the circuit;
  • The dispute concerns assets or goods located in the circuit; or
  • The parties’ legal representatives are based in the circuit.

The wishes of the parties would bear “special weight” in the decision but may not be determinative, Sir Geoffrey suggested, along with an understanding that international cases may be more suitable for trial in centres with international transport links.

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