Changes at the Technology and Construction Court

16 August 2005

Graham Smith

The Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales has announced changes designed to increase the attractiveness of the Technology and Construction Court (“TCC”) as a forum for litigating IT project disputes. The main change is that the TCC has been strengthened by the appointment of a panel of five High Court judges, in addition to Mr Justice Jackson (the judge in charge of the TCC), who will hear the more complex disputes. One existing TCC judge, Judge Richard Seymour QC, has been redeployed to hear non-TCC cases.

The TCC has been through a difficult period, the low point being the Court of Appeal’s decision in CWS v ICL that Judge Richard Seymour’s judgment was so flawed that a retrial had to be ordered. The TCC has been criticised in the computer press, and litigants have started to vote with their feet. Parties to IT project disputes have been bringing cases in other courts such as the Commercial Court, or not litigating at all.

What effect will the changes in the TCC have? They may indeed restore confidence. They may also result in other courts now being less willing to take on IT project disputes, in order to give the new-style TCC a fair chance of success.

However, some hold the view that the TCC was never the right home for IT project disputes, and that the traditional role of the TCC (or the Official Referees, as they then were) in hearing construction disputes should not have been extended to IT project disputes back in the early 1990s.

The long-term future of the TCC is under review. This would be a good time at which to reassess whether the best home for IT project disputes is indeed the TCC, or whether they can be dealt with more effectively elsewhere in the High Court.