In this case the Claimants applied under s.24(1)(a) of the Arbitration Act 1996 to remove an arbitrator on the grounds that circumstances existed giving rise to justifiable doubts as to his impartiality. Those grounds included the fact that the arbitrator had close personal and business connections with the Defendants, that he had assisted in (and advised the Defendants in relation to) the drafting of the very agreements which were the subject of the arbitration, and that the way in which the arbitrator had conducted the reference suggested that he may be partisan and had become too personally involved in the dispute to retain the necessary objectivity.
The application was successful, Popplewell J accepting the Claimants’ submission that the ‘fair-minded and informed observer, having considered the facts, would conclude that there was a real possibility that the tribunal was biased’, applying Porter v Magill  AC 357, and rejecting the Defendants’ submission that the Claimants had waived the right to object under s.73 of the Arbitration Act 1996 by taking part in the arbitration without making an objection forthwith. In relation to the second of these points, the judgment of Popplewell J contains a helpful clarification of what counts as “taking part” in an arbitration for the purposes of s.73.
Luke Pearce appeared on behalf of the Claimants (instructed by Holman Fenwick Willan).