Requests for mercantile courts answered

Two mercantile courts to be set up in Newcastle and Leeds will be headed by long standing Clifford Chance partner Christopher McGonigal.

The courts, at Leeds and Newcastle district registries, have been welcomed by practitioners and businesses in the region who have been campaigning for them since the end of 1994.

At the moment practitioners often have to send papers for mercantile cases to London and also travel down there for related hearings.

Martin Soloman at Newcastle firm Hay & Kilner was a member of the group campaigning for a court in Newcastle. He said: “Our research showed there were a lot of practitioners who felt they had to start cases, which were essentially mercantile cases, in London. We are very pleased by the news and see it as a large step forward.”

The courts are due to start operating in April. McGonigal, 59, is the first solicitor to become a circuit mercantile judge. He is currently senior partner of the contentious business area at Clifford Chance.

“It gives me the opportunity to practise in the field of commercial law, where I have practised for the past 30 years, and the opportunity to return to Yorkshire where I was brought up,” he said.

McGonigal, who will have a deputy in each court, said he should be able to provide a service whereby people with commercial disputes did not need to send papers down to London.

The mercantile courts will hear commercial and business cases relating to contractual disputes. Similar courts are already operating in Birmingham, Bristol, Manchester and Liverpool.

In a separate move, Lord Justice Kennedy, 61, has been appointed vice-president of the Queen's Bench division of the High Court and Lord Justice Rose, 59, has been appointed vice-president of the criminal division of the court of appeal.