Local guidance

A new edition of The Chancery Guide was published in July 2022. This is available online (PDF) and, subject to any applicable local guidance, it applies in the regional Business and Property Courts as it does in the Rolls Building in London.
The Chancery Guide was accompanied by a Practice Note (PDF) of the Chancellor dated July 2022. This indicates that all previously published guidance for the Chancery Division is superseded by the terms of The Chancery Guide, save only for those Practice Notes and the guidance identified in its schedule.

The following local guidance currently applies:

Birmingham BPC

The Birmingham Business and Property Courts have introducing a pilot listing policy aimed at assisting BPC judges, court users and court staff by:

  • Reducing waiting times for hearings;
  • Ensuring that BPC allocated time is used for BPC work;
  • Reducing the volume of referrals; and
  • Enabling otherwise unrepresented parties to receive free legal assistance at an early stage of proceedings.

The pilot will run for six months and will be kept under review.

Judges of the BPC

There are eight ticketed BPC District Judges and 10 ticketed BPC Deputy District Judges. There is a dedicated BPC District Judge listed each week, and a dedicated BPC Deputy District Judge listed one week a month.

There are five BPC Circuit Judges, who exercise s.9 powers, to hear BPC cases in the High Court. In addition, there are four Circuit Judges who are ticketed to undertake BPC County Court work.

The work of the BPC is divided into Chancery, Circuit Commercial Court and TCC cases. Circuit Commercial Court and TCC cases are case managed and tried exclusively by the BPC Circuit Judges, who also deal with all interim applications.

The majority of case management/interim applications for Chancery cases are dealt with by the BPC District Judges/Deputy District Judges.

CCMCs/Part 8 directions hearings – Chancery

The majority of claims will be listed automatically on issue for an in-person first hearing without referral to a judge, unless the parties request otherwise. The pilot will ensure that there is sufficient flexibility to accommodate any particular hearing that requires a longer time estimate e.g. because of a large number of separately represented parties.

For Part 7 claims, two CCMCs will be block-listed at 11am with a combined time estimate of two hours and one hour pre-reading from 10am. The parties will be directed to attend Court at 10am for the purpose of negotiation and to seek to narrow the issues. The target date for the CCMC hearing will be no earlier than three months and no later than four months from issue to give the parties sufficient time to comply with their obligations regarding costs budgeting and disclosure.

For Part 8 claims, except where the claimant is unrepresented, these will be listed for a 30 minute directions hearing. Four Part 8 directions hearings will usually be listed in an afternoon. The target date for the Part 8 directions hearing will be eight weeks from issue.

For Part 8 claims where the claimant is unrepresented the first directions hearing will be listed in the CLIPS list (Word doc).

This practice of automatic listing on issue is aimed at reducing waiting times for a first hearing. It is recognised, however, that claimants have four months in which to serve the claim form, which means that some cases may not require an early first hearing.  If an early first hearing is not required, claimants may on issue request that a hearing not be automatically listed. Where an early hearing date is listed, but then not required, the parties may request in writing that the hearing be vacated and without the need for a formal application.

It is recognised that a return to in-person CCMC hearings may adversely impact upon advocates with caring responsibilities. To help alleviate that then claimants’ representatives can provide dates of availability on issuing the claim to enable the CCMC to be listed on a convenient date.

Chancery – interim hearings where unrepresented parties (“CLIPS”)

There will be a dedicated list, once per month, before a BPC District Judge/Deputy District Judge for short hearings of no more than one hour where one or both of the parties are unrepresented. Volunteers, drawn initially from junior members of the local Bar under the umbrella of Advocate, the Bar’s Pro Bono service, volunteer to be on the CLIPS rota on a dedicated day. They will attend Court and be available to give advice/assistance to litigants in person, who will be directed to the volunteer on a first come, first served basis. Cases will be block-listed, with three matters listed at 10am and two matters listed at 2pm, to allow for maximum flexibility.

Early hearings of applications before BPC CJs

There will a list every alternate Monday before one of HHJs Rawlings, Tindal, Williams or Worster to hear suitable interim applications with time estimates of two hours or less (“the CJ Apps List”).

Parties requesting that their applications be heard in the CJs Apps List should complete and submit to the CJ Diary Manager, Toby Winter at birmingham.cty.dm@justice.gov.uk the proforma checklist (copy of which is below), which will then be referred to a BPC CJ to consider whether the application can be listed in the next available CJ Apps List.

Designated Listing Officer (“DLO”)

There will be a DLO in the Chancery High Court section, who will be responsible for listing into the District Judge and Deputy District Judge weeks that are released to BPC. It will be an important part of the role of the DLO to ensure that BPC allocated time is used efficiently for such work. The DLO is Jessica Attwood.

Re-allocation of District Judge/Deputy District Judge time

The DLO will maintain a schedule of hearings to be listed. The DLO will be notified promptly when other hearings are vacated so that the DLO can make use of otherwise lost time by listing scheduled matters into the available time. This ought to (i) ensure that BPC allocated time is used for BPC cases and (ii) reduce waiting times.

Chancery Financial Dispute Resolution Hearing (“FDR”)

FDRs are a form of in-court judge led mediation combined with early neutral evaluation. At any first hearing of a suitable case, the parties will be encouraged to agree to the case being listed for an FDR. In the absence of agreement, the Judge may, if they consider it proportionate, consider imposing an FDR upon the parties in any event. The hearing will generally be listed for two hours from 11am with pre-reading time of one hour from 10am. The parties will be directed to attend Court at 10am to commence negotiations.

The target date for FDRs will be four to six weeks from the first hearing. At the first hearing, the District Judge/Deputy District Judge will be able to contact the DLO to obtain the next available date for an FDR. The parties are encouraged to bring dates of availability to the first hearing.

In order to meet the target date, consideration can be given to listing the FDR before a BPC CJ (whether the case is in the County Court or the High Court).

No Case Too Big For Birmingham

There will be a track for suitable cases to be (i) allocated to a named BPC CJ for case management and (ii) tried by a High Court Judge sitting in Birmingham. There is no prescribed criteria, but value, complexity and/or importance will be relevant considerations. Any request for allocation to this track should be made by covering letter when issuing the claim and setting out brief reasons why the case is considered suitable for track. The request will then be referred a BPC CJ for consideration.

Monitoring and review

Court users are encouraged to provide feedback (both good and bad) to ClerktoHHJWilliams@justice.gov.uk

The DLO will monitor performance against this policy and provide feedback to the BPC judges, who will keep the policy under review so that changes can be made as and when required.