Justice Outside London: The present deployment of QB Judges

|Reports and Reviews
  1. There are now (January 2007) or soon will be 107 High Court Judges. Of these, 71 are assigned to the Queen’s Bench Division.
  2. In April 2005, May LJ produced a Survey Report on Queen’s Bench Division Deployment. We reproduce for convenience part of section A (The shape of Queen’s Bench Need and Deployment) and section E (Summary) of that report as Appendix B to this report. In April 2005, there were 72 QB judges. The 2005 report indicated a need then for about 8 more QB judges. Following this report, a decision was taken not to increase the number of High Court Judges. Our present report does not seek to question that decision.
  3. The tables in Appendix B are reproduced for convenience to show the general shape of the deployment of QB judges. This can most conveniently be seen from the second column of numbers in Table 1 under the heading “QB Judges”. The general shape in January 2007 is much the same as it was in April 2005 with some significant differences, as follows:
    1. The pressure on the Administrative Court (including SIAC) is greater, so that 7 judges there is now insufficient. The minimum required number is around 10 although this is rarely achieved in practice.
    2. The need for QB judges to try long criminal trials is generally greater than 5, mainly because they are needed to try those charged with terrorist offences.
    3. The continuing need for QB judges to try crime on circuit is greater than 23 in most legal terms, although the full need is usually not met.
    4. The QB non-jury and jury lists do not generally now have as many as 7 judges.
    5. The present Chairman of the Law Commission is not a QB judge.
    6. There is now a minimum of 2 QB judges needed in both the TCC and the EAT.
  4. For the purposes of our present report, the only QB judges who sit regularly out of London are those deployed to the circuits and those specifically deployed to try long criminal and civil cases which are not heard in London. The number of civil cases actually heard by QB judges out of London is small, and the majority of these settle before they are heard. Accordingly, almost all the cases at present heard by QB judges are criminal cases. With minor exceptions, all civil and criminal appeals, all Administrative Court cases, all Commercial and Admiralty court cases and all TCC and EAT cases which are heard by QB judges take place in London.

Criminal Cases heard by QB Judges out of London

  1. Apart from the fact that there are not generally enough QB judges available to try crime on circuit, we have heard no significant criticism of the present system of deployment, apart from the contention, vigorously advanced by Birmingham Forward, that High Court judges in the Midlands should be resident there. The present system has its rough edges, which were addressed in the Judicial Resources Review. The present report makes no recommendation in relation to criminal cases. However, as with the Family Division, the system may be peripherally affected if our recommendations might mean that on occasions space in judges’ lodgings was more limited.