Shorter and Flexible Trial Procedures Pilot Schemes

High Court judges have introduced a new initiative, starting in October, aimed at making business litigation cheaper and simpler.  The initiative introduces two new schemes into the courts in the Rolls Building.

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 approximately 10 months. The maximum length of trial would be four days.

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

The Rolls Building is the world’s largest specialist centre for business litigation, bringing together the Commercial Court, the Technology and Construction Court, the courts of the Chancery Division and the Mercantile Court.  The schemes will run in all these courts.

Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, the Lord Chief Justice 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 .”

Many of the procedures  which will be followed in the pilot are already available under the Civil Procedure rules  but are not always applied comprehensively in the same case. The pilot pulls these two approaches to case management together into distinct schemes which the parties can adopt in order to improve access to justice in commercial disputes.

The schemes should also help encourage a change in litigation culture, which involves recognition that comprehensive disclosure and a full, oral trial on all issues is often not necessary for justice to be achieved.  That recognition will in turn lead to significant savings in the time and costs of litigation.

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