Manchester Circuit Commercial Court
Business and Property Courts in Manchester
During the 1980s, there was increasing dissatisfaction with the arrangements for the trial of commercial actions outside London. Criminal cases and personal injury claims were commonly given priority on circuit and many visiting judges had little if any experience of commercial litigation.
The case for reform was taken up by the Northern Circuit of the Bar and the local Law Societies. It was eventually accepted that what was required was a specialist court or list for the management and trial of such cases, to be based in Liverpool and Manchester, and that a full-time Circuit Judge should be appointed to preside over them.
His Honour Judge Michael Kershaw QC (now KC) was appointed as the first Circuit Commercial Judge in 1990, sitting in both Liverpool and Manchester as required; the following year His Honour Judge Michael Dean QC (now KC) was appointed to assist him.
The model adopted for the procedure in these courts was that of the London Commercial Court, with the judge controlling access to the list and conducting all the interim stages of the action, as well as presiding over the trial itself. The procedural rules themselves represented a somewhat simplified version of those of the Commercial Court; and there was an extensive and wide definition of those disputes which were deemed to be suitable for entry in the list. The experiment was generally regarded as successful and similar courts were set up in Leeds, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Liverpool and Newcastle. There was some apprehension that there might be some confusion between the Circuit Commercial Courts and the Commercial Court in London, so the former were renamed the Mercantile Courts.
His Honour Judge Hegarty QC (now KC) subsequently took over the leadership of the Mercantile Court in Manchester. He was succeeded by His Honour Judge Waksman KC who transferred to the London Circuit Commercial Court in 2015 (before being appointed to the High Court in 2018). He was succeeded as judge in charge of the Mercantile Court in Manchester by Her Honour Judge Moulder, who herself was appointed to the High Court in 2017, assigned to the Queen’s Bench Division (now King’s Bench Division) and nominated to sit as a judge of the Commercial Court.
The name of the court reverted to the Circuit Commercial Court with the advent of the Business and Property Courts and there has been increasingly close working of the Circuit Commercial Court both with the Commercial Court in London and the other specialist courts of the Business and Property Courts in Manchester.
A total of 6 Specialist Circuit Judges usually sit in the Business and Property Courts in Manchester, of whom 2, HHJ Pearce and HHJ Halliwell take a lead in circuit commercial cases, doing most of the costs and case management. The other Manchester Judges, currently Judges Hodge KC, Stephen Davies and Cawson KC, together with the Liverpool BPC Judge, Judge Cadwallader, sit in the Circuit Commercial Court from time to time.
The Court deals with a wide variety of commercial cases, from relatively modest contractual disputes to multi-million (and in some cases multi-billion) pound business cases. One of the mantras of the Business and Property Courts is that no case is too large for the regions and this is as true for Manchester as it is for other centres.
The court has an active users group which, as well as dealing with issues relating to the court’s operation, has been involved in making submissions on issues of importance of the Commercial Courts, including the Circuit Commercial Court guide, the disclosure pilot and the Practice Direction on witness statements in the Business and Property Courts. The user group is chaired by a Manchester solicitor, Jeff Lewis (firstname.lastname@example.org).
There is active communication between the judiciary and local practitioners at all levels. The judges are closely involved with the Manchester Business and Property Courts Forum, speaking regularly at forum events. In addition, the judges work with practitioner associations and other outreach programmes to promote the work of the Circuit Commercial Court.
The Business and Property Courts have their own dedicated clerks, with specialist knowledge of the way in which these Courts operate. There is also a dedicated email address for the Business and Property Courts, making contact between the Court and its users easier.
The court is based at the Manchester Civil Justice Centre, a modern building of iconic design which is well-suited to the needs of the business community. It is situated in the city centre, close to stations with several convenient car parks nearby.
The Business and Property Courts, including the Circuit Commercial Court, usually sit on the 9th and 10th floors of the building, where there are large court rooms and extensive conference facilities. All court rooms are equipped for video hearings, permitting the use of video conferencing, entirely remote hearings or hybrid hearings where this is appropriate. The building contains a café.
HHJ David Hodge KC
His Honour Judge David Hodge KC was appointed as a Specialist Civil Senior Circuit Judge in November 2005.
His principal court is the Manchester Civil Justice Centre although HHJ Hodge KC also sits in Liverpool and at the Rolls Building in London. He is authorised to hear cases in the Chancery Lists, the Circuit Commercial Court, and the Technology and Construction Court. He is also authorised to sit in the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) and the Court of Protection.
HHJ Hodge KC was educated at a local state secondary school (St Margaret’s) in Liverpool, where he grew up. He studied at University College, Oxford where he took a first class degree in Jurisprudence and was awarded the post-graduate degree of Bachelor of Civil Law.
He was called to the Bar in 1979 and was one of only four in his year to receive a first class in the Bar Finals. He practised at the Chancery and Commercial Bars from chambers in Lincoln’s Inn, London (9 Old Square and then Maitland Chambers) between 1980 and his appointment to the Bench in 2005, specialising in the fields of property and professional liability.
He was appointed a QC (now KC) in 1997 and sat in crime as a fee-paid Assistant Recorder and Recorder (from 1998) and also as a Deputy High Court Judge of the Chancery Division (from 2004) until his appointment as a full-time, salaried judge in 2005. HHJ Hodge KC was elected a Bencher of Lincoln’s Inn in 2000 and he served as Joint Chair of its Students Activities Committee from 2008 to 2014. He has been a lead advocacy tutor and tutor trainer for Lincoln’s Inn since 1996. He has served as a member of the Incorporated Council of Law Reporting since 2010 and of the Legal Advisory Commission of the General Synod since 2016. HHJ Hodge KC has acted as a Judicial College course tutor on the specialist jurisdictions course since 2010 and he served as its joint course director between 2019 and 2021.
HHJ Hodge KC is the Chancellor of the Dioceses of Blackburn and Oxford and in 2022 he served as the Deputy Chancellor of the Diocese of Ely to determine the unsuccessful petition to remove a contested memorial from the Grade I listed chapel of Jesus College, Cambridge. He has served on the Committee of the Council of HM Circuit Judges since 2007 and has acted as the Secretary and then the Chair of its Civil Sub-Committee. He is currently the Senior Vice-President of the Council.
In 2010 he published ‘Hodge on Rectification’ which is now in its 2nd edition (2015).
HHJ Stephen Davies
After attending local state schools in Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire, reading law at Downing College, Cambridge, being called to the Bar in 1985 and undertaking pupillage in specialist civil and commercial chambers in London and with HH Brendan Hegarty KC in Manchester, His Honour Judge Stephen Davies practised as a barrister in business and property litigation from chambers in Manchester (601 Royal Exchange, becoming 8 King Street) from 1986 until 2007.
He became a Crown Court Recorder in 2002. He was appointed a Deputy Judge of the Technology and Construction Court in 2006. He was appointed a full time Circuit Judge in 2007, sitting initially in the Birmingham Civil Justice Centre and then transferring to Manchester as a Specialist Circuit Judge in October 2007 when the Manchester Civil Justice Centre opened.
He sits in Manchester undertaking business and property court work as a permanent Technology and Construction judge, in the Mercantile (now Circuit Commercial) Court and in the Chancery Division. He also sits in Manchester in the King’s Bench Division, the Administrative Court, the Planning Court and in the Upper Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Tribunal).
His Honour Judge Pearce was appointed a full-time Civil Circuit Judge in 2015, sitting initially in Chester and Liverpool and more recently in Manchester.
Richard is the judge in charge of the Circuit Commercial Court in Manchester and also sits in the Technology and Construction Court and the Chancery Division, as well as in the County Court, the King’s Bench Division, the Administrative Court and the Upper Tribunal Immigration and Asylum Chamber. He sits in Liverpool and London on circuit Commercial and general King’s Bench Division work.
He was called to the Bar in 1985. He practised in the sphere of common law. He was appointed a Recorder in 2005.
He is a frequent speaker at events organised by the British Irish Commercial Bar Association. He has been involved in the court reform programme, including work on online court processes.
His Honour Judge Halliwell was appointed as a Specialist Civil Circuit Judge in the Business and Property Courts in Manchester in 2018
He was called to the Bar in 1985. Until June 2018, he practised from chambers in Manchester specialising in business and property litigation and commercial litigation.
He was appointed to sit as a Recorder in 2018.
He is the author of “Distribution on Intestacy” (FT Law and Tax) (2002).
HHJ Cawson KC
His Honour Judge (Mark) Cawson KC was called to the Bar in 1982. He practiced from Chambers in Manchester and London until 2020, taking Silk in 2001.
His practice encompassed a broad range of Chancery and commercial work, with an emphasis on company and insolvency, professional negligence, commercial property and contract disputes. He was also an accredited mediator.
He was Junior of the Northern Circuit in 1987, Chair of the Northern Circuit Commercial Bar Association between 2008 and 2013, and Chair of the Northern Chancery Bar Association between 2013 and 2020.
He was appointed as an Assistant Recorder in 1998, and a Recorder in 2000, initially sitting on Crime. He was subsequently appointed as a Deputy High Court Judge in 2004, authorised to sit in the Chancery and Queen’s Bench Division (now King’s Bench Division).
He was appointed as a Specialist Circuit Judge, sitting in the Business and Property Courts in Manchester, with effect from 30 November 2020.
He sit primarily on Chancery work, but as a Judge of the Business and Property Courts is also authorised to sit in the Circuit Commercial Court and the Technology and Construction Court. He also sits in the Administrative Court, and at other locations, including London.
He is a member of the Steering Group of the Manchester Business and Property Court Forum.
Contact and other details
Address: Circuit Commercial Court, Manchester Civil and Family Justice Centre, 1 Bridge Street West,
Manchester, Greater Manchester M60 9DJ
General email for the Business and Property Courts (including the Circuit Commercial Court): BPC.Manchester@justice.gov.uk
Team leader: Samantha Samkange (Samantha.Samkange@justice.gov.uk)
Telephone: 0161 240 5307