High Court to host new Business and Property Hub

Barristers in Northern Ireland have heard plans for a new Business and Property Hub to be opened in the High Court in September 2018.

Members of the Commercial Bar Association (CBA) gathered at the Inn of Court to hear Lord Chief Justice, Sir Declan Morgan set out the proposals.

The new “hub” 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.

Sir Declan 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 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 these islands with costs that are “proportionate and fair”.

The judge 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.

Mr Justice Horner encouraged practitioners and the business community to share their views on the new hub with the CBA, underlining that these will be vital in shaping its approach.

Suzanne Wylie, chief executive of Belfast City Council, 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.

Michael Humphreys QC, chairman of the Commercial Bar Association, said 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”.

He added: “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 the new hub with the Commercial Bar Association.”