Limits to appealing arbitration awards to Court of Appeal

Under the Arbitration Act 1996 (the Act), there are limited circumstances in which an arbitration award can be appealed to the High Court. If leave to appeal is granted by the High Court, but one of the parties subsequently wishes to appeal from the High Court judgment, it must apply to the High Court judge who handed down the judgment for permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal. If the judge refuses leave to appeal, the Court of Appeal does not have the jurisdiction to overrule his decision and grant leave to appeal. That is therefore the end of the line for the unsuccessful party, which must accept the High Court decision unless it can rely on the Court of Appeal’s residual jurisdiction to set aside the High Court judge’s refusal of permission.

The Court of Appeal can, however, only exercise this residual discretion if the High Court judge’s decision is considered to be so unfair or improper that it cannot be considered a decision at all. The very high threshold for demonstrating such unfairness on the part of the judge is reflected by the fact that the Court of Appeal has not to date exercised this residual discretion under the Act. In a recent charterparty dispute, it has again refused to entertain an application challenging the Commercial Court judge’s refusal of permission to appeal…

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