High Court judges drafted in to help turn around TCC

In response to unprecedented pressure for change, the Lord Chief Justice and the Lord Chancellor last week announced sweeping changes to the much-maligned Technology and Construction Court (TCC) and appointed a panel of High Court judges to hear cases in the court.

The High Court judges nominated to hear TCC cases are Mr Justice Christopher Clarke, Mr Justice Elias, Mr Justice Field, Mr Justice Ouseley and Mr Justice Simon.

In addition to the new panel, the High Court judge in charge of the TCC, Mr Justice Jackson, will be devoted full-time to the court instead of spending just half of his time there.

The High Court judges nominated to hear TCC cases are all fairly new to the bench. The most experienced is Judge Elias, who became a High Court judge in 1999, after years as the employment silk of choice at 11 King’s Bench Walk. Judge Ouseley was next to the bench in 2000, with Judge Field and Judge Simon joining him in 2002.

Judge Clarke is the newest judge, but considered by many to be the biggest catch. The former head of Brick Court Chambers was counsel to the Bloody Sunday Inquiry before joining the judiciary in December 2004.

The 41 senior circuit and circuit judges (including the seven full-time TCC judges) will continue hearing cases that do not merit the attention of a High Court judge. The allocation of cases may become clearer when the new edition of the TCC guide is released shortly.

According to the statement by the Lord Chief Justice: “Arrangements for the longer-term future of the TCC are currently under consideration.”

The reforms are an attempt to resuscitate the reputation of the TCC, which has suffered since The Lawyer first revealed Judge Seymour’s outrageous verdict in the Co-op v ICL case (20 January 2003). This triggered a landslide of criticism, not least from the Court of Appeal, and sparked a debate regarding the quality of judges in the TCC.