Dubai, United Arab Emirates;12 April 2015: The DIFC Courts today published their 2014 Annual Report, detailing another milestone year in the history of Dubai’s English language common law courts with the total value of claims and counterclaims filed increasing by 81% to cross one billion dirhams for the first time.
Cases totalling AED 1.76 billion in value were filed with the DIFC Courts in 2014, while the caseloads of the Court of First Instance (CFI) and Small Claims Tribunal (SCT) rose by 29% and 69% respectively. In addition, the size and complexity of cases continued to rise, with the average claim amount in the CFI increasing by 25% from AED 33.5 million per case in 2013 to AED 42 million in the following year.
Enforcement remained a central focus in 2014 with the DIFC Courts signing cooperation memoranda with leading international commercial centres including the Federal Court of Australia and the High Court of Kenya (Commercial and Admiralty Division). These were followed in early 2015 by signings with the Supreme Court of Singapore and the US Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York. A dedicated Enforcement Department was also established in 2014 with responsibility for handling the enforcement of all DIFC Courts’ decisions locally and internationally.
Michael Hwang, Chief Justice of the DIFC Courts, said: “Dubai’s reputation as an international centre of excellence for dispute resolution grew in 2014 alongside the increasing size and complexity of cases handled by the DIFC Courts. In line with our goal to offer an advanced world class judicial system, we constantly explored potential areas for improvement last year. In particular, our ceaseless efforts to ensure the enforceability of DIFC Courts judgments across the globe garnered considerable success and we are steadily building one of the world’s strongest enforcement regimes.”
To ensure the efficient management of their increasing workload, last year, the DIFC Courts streamlined their processes to the extent that half of their written judgments are produced within a month and, on average, judgments are delivered within two and a half months. In 2014, 90% of SCT cases were settled in less than three weeks and overall 92% of cases in the DIFC Courts were resolved through settlement, without the need for a trial.
The year also witnessed a major upgrade of the DIFC Courts’ website and audio visual systems in line with Dubai’s commitment to accessibility and Smart Government services, including new HD screens, monitors and sound systems, allowing for better quality communication when parties from around the world are dealing with the Courts by video conference.
In recognition of their work to deliver world class service levels to a diverse and demanding user base, in 2014, the DIFC Courts became the first Dubai Government entity to receive five stars under the country’s new rating system for public services.
Mark Beer, OBE, Chief Executive and Registrar of the DIFC Courts, said: “2014 was another year of achievement for the DIFC Courts. We continued to advance through our commitment to service excellence in line with the vision of Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Our focus in 2014 was on exceeding our already high standards of excellence, developing the incredible team of talented men and women working in the DIFC Courts, and continuing to facilitate the resolution of our rapidly growing caseload. To achieve this goal, we made several significant investments and launched a number of strategic initiatives focussed on enhancing each court user’s experience and promoting greater efficiency, accessibility and transparency.”
The pioneering DIFC Courts Pro Bono Programme continued to serve the community in 2014 with 39 volunteer pro bono law firms and 86 volunteer in-house counsels giving their time to help a wide range of litigants within the DIFC community that otherwise would not have access to legal advice due to their financial situation. Two clinics were held every month during the year and more than 200 people received assistance.
2014 was an award-winning year for the DIFC Courts as they were recognised in two categories of the English Law Society’s highly prestigious Excellence Awards, being shortlisted for “Excellence in Pro Bono” and winning the “Excellence in International Legal Services” category.