14 Sep 2022

ICCA congress to go ahead as UK legal profession readies for funeral of Queen Elizabeth II

Flagship arbitration event to proceed in Edinburgh as courts shut for Queen’s funeral – but arbitrations remain open as barrister strike continues

Tributes for Queen Elizabeth II outside Buckingham Palace earlier this week Shutterstock

The organisers of next week’s International Council of Commercial Arbitrators (ICCA) Congress in Edinburgh have confirmed the event will go ahead, notwithstanding a period of official mourning following the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

In an email sent to delegates the organisers confirmed that following guidance from the Scottish and UK governments the congress, which starts this Sunday, will proceed with adjustments.

A two-minute silence will be held at the start of the Queen’s funeral at 11:00am next Monday and the ICCA will halt programming to allow delegates to watch the state funeral. All other events at the congress, including the opening ceremony and welcome reception, will proceed as planned, while law firm events will occur at their organiser’s discretion. 

The 2022 congress, with over 1,500 delegates registered, is the third time the event has been scheduled. There were postponements in due to the pandemic in 2020 and in 2021. This title understands ICCA’s organisers were, accordingly, reluctant to cancel the event at the end of ten days of official mourning, despite the monarch’s death aged 96. 

CMS’s arbitration team subsequently confirmed that owing to the closure of the Signet Library a formal dinner hosted by former judge Lord Glennie, the vice chair of the Scottish Arbitration Centre, will be cancelled. The library is home to the Writers of the Signet, one of Scotland’s oldest legal bodies. Other events hosted by law firms and arbitral institutions will still occur, albeit scaled back.  

Commenting on LinkedIn, Clyde & Co partner Professor Loukas Mistelis said ICCA was being held “during a time of national mourning for the UK and only soon after the end of the pandemic. It is even more important that we get together – and work together. This is exactly what the late Queen Elizabeth II would have liked.”

Separately, both Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service and their Northern Ireland and Scottish equivalents confirmed that the vast majority of courts and tribunals will close for the state funeral on Monday, a bank holiday.

In an email, HMCTS said: “All our venues, including the Royal Courts of Justice, Crown Courts, County Courts, Civil and Family Courts, magistrates’ courts, tribunals, business centres and service centres, will close to the public as a mark of respect.” The UK Supreme Court in London, close to Westminster Abbey, will also close. 

HMCTS confirmed that “urgent hearings, including overnight custody cases, will continue in consultation with the judiciary”. All other hearings will be rescheduled. 

The court closures were criticised by some lawyers on Twitter, citing delays to cases in the lower courts as a result.

However, London’s International Dispute Resolution Centre confirmed it will remain open, with arbitration hearings pausing during the funeral. All attendees will observe a two-minute silence. 

The Criminal Bar Association, meanwhile, confirmed that demonstrations planned as part of ongoing strike action will be cancelled. However, members will continue to refuse to accept instructions or to attend court. Kirsty Brimelow QC, the CBA’s chair, said the action was at “a critical stage” and “having a substantial impact”. 

Brimelow added that many CBA members were “very upset at the passing of the Queen,” with a message of condolence being sent. 

She said: “Many have met her; others attended her garden parties, and for others, she has been [a] constant through… tumultuous times. She is the only monarch we have known. Irrespective of differing views on the institution, the Queen’s public service has been immense."

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