Our proposals concentrate on improved deployment arrangements for QB judges for civil and Administrative Court cases administered in Cardiff, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds. This necessarily does not include the South Eastern Circuit, the Western Circuit, nor other possible large centres on the other circuits. Since we are not recommending changed arrangements for criminal cases, we expect that QB judges will continue to sit to try crime in all those circuit centres where they presently sit.
The Presiding Judge of the South Eastern Circuit (Rafferty J) was content that High Court civil and Administrative Court cases from the South Eastern Circuit should continue to be administered and heard mainly in London. She emphasised the benefits locally of senior judges, including Court of Appeal judges, making supporting visits to centres on the circuit outside London. We note that this point is valid for all centres on all circuits. Otherwise we make no recommendation for changes in QB judge deployment on the South Eastern Circuit.
The Presiding Judge of the Western Circuit (Owen J) did not feel able to make a strong case for having Administrative Court cases administered in Bristol. Bristol is an important commercial centre with a strong concentration of the legal professions. But it is not, we believe, a population centre comparable with the four cities for which we do make this recommendation. Travel from Bristol to London or Birmingham is as good as congestion will allow – though no better than travel from Birmingham to London. There are specialist civil judges in Bristol and they, with the Designated Civil judge and Bristol generally, are encompassed in our recommendation for QB liaison judges (see below).
The Presiding Judge of the Midland Circuit (Gibbs J) did not make a case for having Administrative Court cases administered at any centre on the Midland Circuit other than Birmingham.
There is a well known and obvious geographical problem with North Wales. We consider this further later in this report. Taking account of this, the Presiding Judge of the Wales and Chester Circuit (Roderick Evans J) considers that Welsh Administrative Court cases should be administered in Cardiff. This was the predominant opinion of all those in Wales whose views we received. There is no large population centre in North Wales. But the cases could be listed for hearing, if this is appropriate at any convenient centre, including North Wales.
A case could be made for having Administrative Court cases administered in Liverpool. But the Presiding Judge of the Northern Circuit (McCombe J) did not make a case for both Manchester and Liverpool. He did envisage that hearings would take place in both cities and from time to time also in Preston. A substantial number of judges and practitioners from Liverpool came to May LJ’s meetings, including the open meeting, in Manchester. He understood that they were generally content if there were Administrative Court cases administered in Manchester.
The Presiding Judge of the North Eastern Circuit (Simon J) did not make a case for having Administrative Court cases administered on the North Eastern Circuit other than at Leeds. He was emphatic that the circuit’s existing arrangements for listing High Court civil cases generally should not be dislocated. These arrangements include back to back listing of civil cases from time to time at Sheffield and Newcastle-upon-Tyne, as well as Leeds. Our recommendations are not intended to affect these arrangements.
This part of our discussion speaks of Administrative Court cases being administered at the four centres. Our expectation is that many of them will be heard there also. But our recommendations do not preclude, for example, cases administered in Manchester being listed for hearing in Preston; nor cases administered in Leeds being listed for hearing in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.