McHale & Co. Solicitors Blog

Will the Anglo-Russian pledge to the rule of law mean justice within the Russian legal system?

Last week the Law Society and the Bar Association of the Russian Federation have pledged their mutual commitment to the rule of law, human rights and access to justice in a memorandum of understanding*. 

This may sound rather hypocritical to those who follow the Russian news and are aware of such names as Khodorkovski, Tolokonnikova, Magnitsky and such headlines as “Putin signs anti-gay propaganda bill”.Yet the memorandum is intended as a framework through which the two jurisdictions ‘deepen the mutual knowledge and understanding’ of their respective professions and ‘work together to help develop friendship and co-operation’*. 

To me this sounds like a perfect opportunity to reiterate to the Russian-speaking population that civil justice can be done in the UK. This can be achieved as early as at the contract formation stage and, through simple strategy and precise legal drafting, it is entirely possible to turn a negative outcome (such as one party failing to honour their contractual obligations and there being little recourse) to a positive one (such as a successful claim through the English courts).

According to Law Society's President, Nicholas Fluck, “English law is the law of choice for business in many different jurisdictions... 60% of the work of Commercial Court in London last year involved Russian and other eastern European parties, even though the disputes the parties involved often had no connection with England”*. I have witnessed this phenomenon myself, for example whilst being instructed to draft a contract for a Russian client for the sale of an asset in Europe to a non-European party. The main reason behind this is the predictability and the apparent integrity of the English civil justice system, should one need or want to use it. In addition, the parties to a contract with a UK jurisdiction clause often feel that they have a stronger and more trusting commercial relationship, a bond of some sort, which in turn enables their joint venture to flourish. 

Similarly, in matrimonial matters the UK jurisdiction is often the choice for a party with a lesser financial standing. At McHale & Co we have already advised a number of Russian-speaking clients (residing in the UK and considering starting divorce proceedings in Russia) on the advantages of filing for a divorce in the English courts.

The Anglo-Russian memorandum may not and probably will not solve all the problems within the Russian legal framework. But what it does bring is the necessary awareness of the availability and fairness of the UK legal system, which may ultimately mean access to justice and the commitment to the rule of law as far as Russia is concerned. 

Maria Udalova-Surkova

26 November 2013

* Source

Categories: General,

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