Lord Irvine's paper tackles Commercial Court disrepair

The court’s premises are in dire need of improvement, a point fiercely driven home by Mr Justice Colman, an eminent judge in the court. Writing in The Lawyer in February, he described the court as a “public disgrace”.
He added: “No Lord Chancellor and no Chancellor of the Exchequer should be anything but seriously concerned that a court of such immense international reputation remains housed in such disgusting premises.”
He said that the reason for the disrepair is the Lord Chancellor’s failure to convince the Treasury to cough up or find investment from other sources.
Lord Irvine’s consultation paper centres on the en-hancement of facilities and standing of the Commercial Court, including purpose-built accommodation for the court and other courts. It assesses the size of courtrooms and any extra needs, such as adjacent conference rooms, and considers interim arrangements before the opening of new facilities.
Judge Colman said that the court is unfit for heavy litigation because there are no consultation facilities, no permanent video-conferencing equipment, the entrance area is extremely constricted, and robing facilities are completely inadequate.
Half of the Commercial Court judges are based in the Royal Courts of Justice rather than the court’s home at St Dunstan’s House.
There is also a proposal for merging the Technology and Construction, Commercial, and Admiralty courts into a single court. This was put forward by the paper’s consultant, Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, although Lord Irvine disagrees with the proposal. Another suggestion is to merge the Patents Court with other specialist business courts.
Other possibilities include setting up pilot sites for testing IT systems – which are currently being updated – and merging support staff teams of the specialist courts.
More contentiously, the paper includes a proposal for separating Commercial Court and specialist court fees from other High Court fees, and looks at the impact that a fee rise would have on court business.