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CHAPTER 22 Challenging an award in the English courts

London Maritime Arbitration

Page 371


Challenging an award in the English courts

A. Introduction

22.1 The starting point under English law is that an award is final and binding on the parties unless challenge is possible in accordance with the 1996 Act.1 The 1996 Act and the courts’ current approach to arbitration are firmly in favour of the finality of awards and the courts will give awards a benevolent interpretation for this purpose.2 Time-consuming and costly challenges in the courts are directly contrary to the parties’ objective in choosing arbitration as an efficient means of dispute resolution by their chosen tribunal. The 1996 Act is founded on the principle that the object of arbitration is to give effect to the parties’ choice to refer their dispute to arbitration and that the courts should only intervene to support the arbitral process rather than displace it.3 Accordingly, there are strict limits on remedies for challenging awards (for example, time limits and the requirement of leave to appeal) and the court will not interfere except as provided by that Act. The 1996 Act aims to balance the interest of ensuring a right to challenge where the award or arbitration is plainly outside what the parties could reasonably have expected4 against the principle of giving effect to the parties’ agreement to arbitrate. The Act is designed to ensure that challenges are not used as

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illegitimate delaying devices (for example, the court may require a challenging party to provide security for the costs of the application). Under the Act there are four main methods of challenging an award in the courts:

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