Justice Outside London: Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds

|Reports and Reviews

Birmingham

  1. We do not attach the original January 2006 Birmingham Forward Study which has already had wide circulation. We have summarised its main thesis earlier in this report. The size of Birmingham as a population centre and the strength of its professional and business community is evident and does not need detailed demonstration – which Birmingham Forward nevertheless produce. If of the four centres Cardiff has the strongest constitutional case for an Administrative Court centre, our impression is that Birmingham has the strongest business case. Beyond impression however, this is not, we think, a judgment which needs to be addressed. Birmingham has, however, attracted not only regional litigation, but national and international cases.
  2. In addition to the original Birmingham Forward Study and the palpable support from the 165 or so people who attended the open meeting there, we have received a supplemental report, which we attach with its first Appendix as our Appendix H. This report strongly supports both the main proposals now made in our report. It qualifies its support for each of them by emphasising that our proposals should not be implemented so as to detract from the quality of the High Court and specialist civil jurisdictions as they currently operate. We endorse this qualification without reservation. It would be no service to the regional centres, if finding judges for the Administrative Court significantly diminished the availability of appropriate judges to sit in Chancery, Mercantile and TCC jurisdictions or as Designated Civil Judges; nor if necessary administrative staff were moved without replacement into an Administrative Court office so as to impair the service provided by the part of the system they were leaving.
  3. The supplemental report and its covering letter from the Chief Executive of Birmingham Forward also confirmed that they remain keen to pursue their original proposal of establishing a full resident High Court in Birmingham to serve the city, the surrounding region and the wider United Kingdom.

Manchester

  1. Manchester is about to get a newly built Civil Justice Centre consisting of 47 courts of which it will be justly proud. There is also a recently built new civil court building in Liverpool. The Manchester court building will soon house all the city’s civil and family courts. It should have ample space for a regional Administrative Court. The support for its establishment is as enthusiastic in Manchester as in the other centres.
  2. We attach as Appendix I a persuasive paper dated October 2006 by Frances Patterson QC advancing the case for a fully operating Administrative Court office in the North West. The reasons advanced apply with appropriate modifications to the other regional centres. The particular points which the paper highlights are:
    1. that local practitioners do not have a wide experience of Administrative Court work because much of the work presently goes to lawyers in London because the Administrative Court is in London. This is a major handicap to the legal professions in the North West and a disservice to actual or potential litigants.
    2. that on occasions when local litigants instruct local practitioners, the entire case and all those concerned have to travel to London.
    3. that 11.4% of the population lives in the North West.
    4. that results of a survey estimate that an Administrative Court in Manchester might initially attract 250 cases a year and that this would be expected to increase in time.
  3. Frances Patterson’s paper was part of a five part preliminary discussion paper submitted by the Manchester Bar and Law Society. We do not attach the remaining four parts, which comprised a paper on Chancery and Mercantile work by Lesley Anderson QC; a paper on Family Law by Sarah Singleton QC; a paper on personal injury and clinical negligence by Timothy Horlock QC; and a paper on High Court work on the Northern Circuit by a Liverpool Working Party. We have also received a helpful short commentary on these papers from HH Judge Richard Holman, the Designated Civil Judge for Manchester. The first of these papers was the result of joint efforts by the Northern Circuit and the Manchester Law Society envisaged as a response to the DCA consultation paper “Focussing Judicial Resources Appropriately”. It contains a detailed account of the Regional Profile of the North West and its legal professions. It has helpful statistics for Chancery, Mercantile and TCC cases on the Northern Circuit. It reports on research commissioned by the Leader of the Northern Circuit and the President of the Manchester Law Society. Among the results was overwhelming support for the new civil justice centres in Liverpool and Manchester. We were also told that survey results suggested that some 280 lawyers were concerned with Administrative Court work; that Manchester solicitors handled numerous immigration and asylum cases; and that there had since 1996 been a significant number of cases concerning Ashworth Hospital. Most respondents considered that the benefits of the new buildings were not alone enough to redress an imbalance of cases currently being sent to London. Factors from which this resulted are capable of being addressed by an increase in the presence of QB and Chancery High Court judges on circuit. There was clear support for the new Manchester Civil Justice Centre to be used to facilitate the provision of a one stop shop for all civil legal services. “All solicitor respondents identified the presence of a resident High Court judge in each of the Queen’s Bench and Chancery Divisions as “essential” or “very important” and for most this was the factor most likely to encourage them to issue more cases out of Manchester.” It was thought to be a fair inference that High Court judges are regarded as more important for first instance trial work than sitting in an appellate capacity. The paper on personal injury and clinical negligence work also argues for a resident High Court judge in Manchester to hear court cases.

Leeds

  1. We detected a feeling in Leeds that the North East is in danger of losing out to Manchester and the North West. This is understandable, but not, we trust, justified. The North East, with Leeds as its focal point, is and should be regarded as of equal standing and importance. The case for a fully operational Administrative Court in Leeds is, we think, equally strong as for the other centres, accepting that Cardiff has a constitutional case which the other centres do not.
  2. This is well demonstrated by a most impressive paper entitled “Leeds; a Prime Location for the Administrative Court” compiled by Leeds City Council and Leeds Legal, a copy of which we attach as Appendix J. This speaks for itself, but we draw particular attention to the section “Professional Demand” on page 6, which estimates that an Administrative Court based in Leeds will attract 600 to 700 asylum and immigration cases a year deriving from the Bradford Hearing Centre, with a further 100 cases from the hearing centres at North Shields and the Northern Area of the Nottingham Hearing Centre. Page 22 lists 30 local authorities who have indicated that they would support the establishment of an Administrative Court in Leeds. The subsequent pages are copies of letters of support from the Leader of the North Eastern Circuit, the Chair of Leeds Legal and the Chairman of the Civil Litigation Sub-Committee of the Leeds Law Society. The third of these expresses no doubt but that the Administrative Court would succeed in Leeds and would create new business in much the same way as the Mercantile Court did when it was introduced to Leeds in the 1990s. A straw poll of solicitors throughout the region (not just Leeds) demonstrated that applications to the Administrative Court are already in the hundreds.
  3. We have also received separately a letter from the Chief Executive of Leeds City Council dated 12th October 2006, which we attach as Appendix K.