Sunday 26 March 2023

A Judicial Super Highway for North Wales

Author Dave Smethurst Licence CC BY-SA 2.0 Source Wikimedia Commons 


Jane Lambert

According to the updated guidance from the Department for Levelling Up, freeports are intended to attract external investment and stimulate innovation.  If the recently announced Anglesey Freeport achieves those objectives there will be a need for a cost-effective local forum for the resolution of business disputes.  Parties from that area now have the choice of litigating in London, Liverpool, Cardiff or possibly Mold which adds substantially to their costs.  The obvious solution is to extend para 1.1 of Practice Direction 57AA to the Caernarfon District Registry and the County Court at Caernarfon.

CPR57A and Practice Direction 57AA establish the Business and Property Courts of England and Wales.  These are the Royal Courts of Justice in London and the Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle District Registries and County Court hearing centres.  When they were first launched in 2017 the Chancellor referred to the Business and Property as a "judicial super highway" (see my article Launch of a Jusicial Super Highway  12 July 2017 IP Northwest).

The Business and Property Courts undertake the following work:

  • the Admiralty Court, 
  • the Business List, 
  • the Commercial Court, 
  • the Circuit Commercial Courts, 
  • the Competition List, 
  • the Financial List, 
  • the Insolvency and Companies List, 
  • the Intellectual Property List, 
  • the Property, Trusts and Probate List, 
  • the Revenue List, and 
  • the Technology and Construction Court.
The County Court in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Preston also do all the work that falls under the jurisdiction of the courts and lists that make up the Business and Property Courts with a number of exceptions.

Caernarfon already has a Chancery District Registry which means that an intellectual property claim other than one concerning patents, registered designs, plant varieties, semiconductor topographies and trade marks could be issued out of the District Registry and County Court there.  In practice, any County Court claim would almost certainly be transferred to the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court in London ("IPEC"). It appears from the Circuit Commercial Courts in Wales page of the Courts and Tribunals Judiciary website that the Circuit Commercial Court in Mold is part of the Business and Property Courts in Wales. Applications for interim injunctions in an IP case issued out of Caernarfon could therefore in theory be made to Judge Keyser KC or Judge Jarman KC sitting in Mold.   According to para 1.2 of the Intellectual Property Court Guide, small IP claims can be heard in Cardiff as well as Liverpool and London but not in North Wales.

The option for Welsh litigants of bringing their claims in Liverpool, London or elsewhere in England would cease were Wales to establish a separate court system (see my article "A Separate Welsh Legal Jurisdiction"  of 20 Feb 2021). In the eventuality, it would be imperative for the Caernarfon District Registry to become part of the Business and Property Courts in Wales and perhaps other Business and Property Court District Registries to be established in central and southwest Wales. As the Senedd  Cymru can now make primary legislation for Wales, the argument in favour of establishing a separate Welsh court system is likely to strengthen.

Anyone wishing to discuss this article may call me on 020 7404 5252 during office hours or send me a message through my contact page.

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