Govt to review court policy on competition law issues

The review comes as the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Lord Chancellor's Department (LCD) struggle to implement two major pieces of competition law legislation: the Enterprise Act and the European Commission's (EC) modernisation proposals.

A senior High Court judge told The Lawyer: “This is a highly sophisticated area of the law. Litigants are entitled to have their cases heard by specialists.” Some lawyers agree – Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer partner Jon Lawrence, for example, said a competition division of the High Court would make “good commercial and practical sense”.

Adam Brown, in charge of the implementation at the DTI, said: “The view, particularly from the LCD, is that the world is full of new areas of the law, and if we created new courts all the time it would fall apart.” The LCD recently shelved expensive plans for a new commercial court.

The Competition Appeals Tribunal (CAT) is hoping to attract High Court judges when it advertises for new panel members this spring, and has a much-expanded remit to consider civil cases under the Enterprise Act.

However, the CAT is a part-time, quasi-judicial body and for civil cases lacks both the power and the profile of the High Court.