Members of the Bar of Northern Ireland’s Commercial Bar Association gathered at the Royal Courts of Justice last week to hear about the proposed launch of a new Business and Property Hub in the High Court in September 2018.
The Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan opened the event, providing members with an overview of the new hub which will operate as a business court dealing with all forms of commercial dispute, whether public or private law, and will comprise four judges working across the areas of commercial and chancery law, judicial review and ancillary relief. He described this new model as a “sustained attempt to change the picture of commercial work in this jurisdiction”, highlighting the importance of commitment from both the solicitor and barrister professions to its successful operation.
Mr Justice Horner then outlined that the new hub is an “opportunity for reform and improvement”, representing the outworking of some of the key recommendations contained in the Review of Civil and Family Justice in Northern Ireland published in 2017. He added that the hub will aspire to provide commercial litigants with the best possible service in the British Isles with costs that are “proportionate and fair”. Mr Justice Horner also emphasised a range of important features that will underpin the operation of the new hub, including early case management, appropriate consideration of alternative dispute resolution and early neutral evaluation and opportunities for eDiscovery. He encouraged practitioners and the business community to share their views on the new hub with the Commercial Bar Association, underlining that these will be vital in shaping the approach adopted in the coming months.
Finally, Chief Executive of Belfast City Council Suzanne Wylie rounded off the event by providing members with an insight into the work of the Council in attracting investment into the city, highlighting that the “legal system and how it operates is all part of this”. She spoke about opportunities for regeneration arising from local government reform and the importance of the Investment Programme for the delivery of new capital projects.
Commercial Bar Association Chairman Michael Humphreys QC welcomed the creation of the new hub, stating that “it will bring considerable advantages for the business community and other commercial litigants by allowing for the disposal of cases in a more timely, efficient and cost-effective manner. The hub also recognises the growing area of alternative commercial dispute resolution, which the Bar has recently capitalised on by opening The Resolution Centre, a bespoke facility for mediation and arbitration. Before the new hub launches in September 2018, I would encourage members of the legal profession and business community to share their views on maximising the opportunities created by it with the Commercial Bar Association”.