- The main recommendations of this report in summary are that:
- fully operational offices of the Administrative Court should be established in Cardiff, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds and that judges should regularly sit to hear Administrative Court cases in those centres (paragraph 50).
- applications under the Terrorism Acts 2000 and 2005 and applications which must or usually are heard by a Divisional Court of the Queen’s Bench Division should normally be heard in London (paragraph 53).
- there should be a strong expectation that Welsh cases in the Administrative Court should be heard in Wales and that rules of court or a practice direction should make provision to that effect (paragraph 65).
- the implementation of our proposals for the Administrative Court should not detract from the quality of the High Court and specialist civil jurisdictions as they currently operate out of London (paragraph 68).
- at least 3 section 9 deputy High Court judges trained and nominated to sit in the Administrative Court should be attached to each of the 4 regional centres (paragraph 87).
- there should be two Queen’s Bench Division liaison judges to operate in tandem with the existing Chancery supervising judges (whose name we recommend should change) (paragraphs 100, 102, 103).
- the first call on the Queen’s Bench Division liaison judges’ sitting time would be Administrative Court work out of London (paragraph 103 – see that paragraph further for details). Further QB judges should be deployed to hear civil and Administrative cases if the volume of work requires this (paragraph 105).
- the listing of all High Court and specialist civil cases at each centre should be co-ordinated under the same administration and preferably in the same place (paragraph 110).
- the Chancery and Queen’s Bench Division liaison judges should, with presiding judges, provide support for specialist circuit judges and Designated Civil Judges (paragraph 112).
- there should be appropriate training for nominated section 9 deputy High Court judges and administrative staff (paragraphs 113 to 115).
- each of the Divisions of the Court of Appeal should give co-ordinated consideration (i) to identify the purposes for which the Court should sit out of London and the regional centres where those purposes can properly be achieved and (ii) to improve further the process of identifying appeals for listing regionally (paragraph 121).
- that systematic consideration is given by each Division of the Court of Appeal in co-ordination to the accommodation required when the Court sits out of London (paragraph 122).
Introduction and Terms of Reference
- The Working Group was asked in April 2006 by the Civil Sub-Committee of the Judicial Executive Board to consider and make recommendations about arrangements for Lords Justices and High Court Judges to hear cases out of London.
- We have concentrated, although not exclusively, on the hearing of civil and Administrative Court cases by High Court judges, and this Report mainly concerns the deployment outside London of judges of the Queen’s Bench Division.
- We make no recommendation which would alter present arrangements for the deployment of Chancery Division judges. We do, however, recommend that the two Chancery supervising judges should be loosely replicated by two Queen’s Bench judges who would operate out of London in tandem with the existing Chancery Division judges.
- We have not considered, and make no recommendations concerning the deployment of Family Division judges. They would only be affected peripherally, if our recommendations might on occasions mean that space in judges’ lodgings was more limited.
- We have briefly considered and make modest recommendations about sittings of the Court of Appeal Civil and Criminal Divisions out of London.
- There has been some publicity in regional centres of the likely shape of our recommendations. We have at all times stressed that we are a judicial Working Group and that we have been asked to make recommendations only, and that there is no assurance that they will be accepted and implemented either by the Judicial Executive Board or administratively by the Department of Constitutional Affairs and HMCS. HMCS is aware that recommendations will be made, but we have not as yet asked for nor received any assurance that the necessary resources can be provided. We have not discussed resources other than in general terms and mainly at regional level.
Membership of the Group
- The members of the Working Group are:
Lord Justice May, Vice-President of the Queen’s Bench Division;
Mr Justice Patten, Vice-Chancellor of the County Palatine of Lancaster;
Mr Justice Gibbs, Presiding Judge of the Midland Circuit;
Mr Justice Roderick Evans, Presiding Judge of the Wales and Chester Circuit; and
Mr Justice McCombe, Presiding Judge of the Northern Circuit.We have also been greatly helped by Mr Justice Simon, Presiding Judge of the North Eastern Circuit. The circuits over which these judges preside include Cardiff, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, the regional cities which are the subject of our main recommendations. Gibbs J and McCombe J are nominated judges of the Administrative Court.
- We have consulted widely. An indicative list of those whom we have consulted is at Appendix A. We apologise if by oversight we have omitted from the list people whom we have consulted. Equally some of those who are on the list have contributed conversationally or less formally and fully than others.
- In May 2006, Patten and Gibbs JJ circulated a questionnaire to all civil specialist judges outside London about specialist jurisdictions, and we received very helpful responses from many of these judges.
- In October 2006, May LJ visited successively the civil justice centres in Cardiff, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds. In each of these centres he held meetings to discuss the group’s maturing proposals with those specialist and designated civil judges who were available, and with senior administrative and listing staff. In each of the centres, he held an open meeting attended by judges, members of the legal professions, local government lawyers and other officers, representatives of public authorities and others. The numbers attending these meetings were in the order of Cardiff: 100; Birmingham: 165; Manchester: 120; and Leeds: 75. For Birmingham we have been provided with a list of 150 named people who attended the meeting there, and it is thought that 15 to 20 others were also there. For Manchester, 65 named lawyers indicated in advance that they would attend. This did not include judges, nor, we think, representatives of public bodies. In the event, the attendance was of the order indicated.
- In Cardiff, May LJ and Roderick Evans had a separate meeting by invitation at the Welsh Assembly with Edwina Hart AM MBE, Minister for Social Justice and Regeneration, and with executive officers of the Welsh National Assembly. After the meeting, the Minister kindly gave a guided tour of the hugely impressive National Assembly Building.
- In Birmingham, May LJ and Gibbs J had a meeting by invitation with the Lord Mayor of Birmingham. The meeting also included the Leader of the City Council and executive officers and representatives of Birmingham Forward.
- In Manchester, May LJ, Patten J and McCombe J joined others in a guided tour round the new Manchester Civil Justice Centre which is nearing completion. This enormously impressive 47 court building in the centre of Manchester is described as the largest and most important court building constructed in England and Wales since the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand were built in the 1880s. It is symbolic of the need and eagerness for justice out of London.
- The consultations at the four centres, in particular the very well attended open meetings, gave near unanimous support for the Group’s main recommendation about the Administrative Court.
- Appended to this report is a number of papers which are the product of our consultation.
- Although our consultation was not entirely systematic nor by means of a formal consultation document, it was, as we have indicated, extensive. We hope that it will be seen as sufficient for decisions on our recommendations to be taken, subject only to further consideration of administrative resources.