Judge rules that adjudication does not break European convention in landmark judgment.
lawyers have welcomed a landmark judgment in the Technology and Construction Court that adjudication does not contravene the Human Rights Act.

The judgment, made by Judge Peter Bowsher, said adjudication was not a public proceeding and therefore did not fall within the European Convention on Human Rights, which was incorporated into English law in October.

Article 6 of the convention guarantees the right to a fair trial.

He said: "Proceedings before an adjudicator are not legal proceedings. They are a process designed to avoid the need for legal proceedings." Bowsher made his comments in his judgment on a final account dispute between Austin Hall Building and Buckland Securities, in which Buckland was ordered to pay Austin £82,000.

Dominic Helps, a partner in Shadbolt & Co, said the decision was a relief. "Had it come down the other way, it would have had a real impact on the conduct of adjudication. It would have hampered the whole process." Helps said the decision sustained the difference between adjudication and official legal proceedings. "The ruling confirms that adjudication is not intended to be like arbitration or court proceedings but completely different." Rudi Klein, chief executive of the Specialist Engineering Contractors Group, also welcomed the ruling, describing it as "fantastic". He said: "It was stretching the Human Rights Act to consider that it applies to a private dispute resolution process." The lawyers added that the matter had yet to be considered by a higher court, such as the Court of Appeal.

Roger Button, partner in solicitor Eversheds, disputed the judgment. "The key question is not whether it's a private proceeding, but whether someone's civil rights are affected," he said.

The judgment was Judge Bowsher's second important ruling on adjudication this month.

In his final ruling on Discain vs Opecprime, he ruled that a substantive breach of natural justice would make an adjudicator's decisions unenforceable.