Birmingham’s legal community is being asked to discuss how the city should run its new Administrative Court.
Professional services lobbying group Birmingham Forward is holding a series of seminars for the city’s legal community to discuss how the court will operate.
Birmingham Forward, along with partners like the public law team at the No 5 Chambers has been campaigning to start a court dealing with public litigation cases for years, but the movement is looking to enter its final stages before the court is set up early next year.
The Administrative Court, set to be held in the Civil Justice Centre on Bull Street, will deal with cases of individuals and companies challenging the legality of decisions made by public bodies.
This could take in immigration challenges, care provisions, availability of cancer drugs, housing problems, planning or a host of other important issues.
Previously, cases along these lines had to be heard in the High Court in London.
Supporters of the Administrative Court say it will improve access to justice, as well as saving taxpayers a hefty bill by removing the need for people to travel down to London.
Barrister David Lock, the leader of the public law team of barristers at No 5 Chambers, said: “This is very serious stuff. These are cases which enormously affect the way government acts.
“We have a very large number of government bodies in the West Midlands. It will create substantially better access to justice for local people to be able to challenge government in local courts.
“Also it will reduce the public costs for public sector bodies in the West Midlands, because they won’t have to travel.
“It will save money, it will increase access to justice and it would improve the quality of government decision making. If the Government knows it can be challenged government in all its forms follows the processes more closely and therefore pays more attention to the people it services.”
Richard Brennan, chief executive of Birmingham Forward, said the opening of the court would be a huge boost to Birmingham’s reputation as a centre for justice.
He said: “It was a defining moment in our campaign to change the way regional justice operates to be granted an admin court in the city.
Not only does this show that Birmingham is a prominent and important centre for justice but it will have significant benefit for local authorities, public bodies, business and individuals who will now be able to have their cases heard within the city and not have to travel to London with all the cost and inconvenience this causes.
“The legal community are determined to make the admin court a success and to justify the decision to open the court here in the city.
The seminars Birmingham Forward are hosting will support the preparation for the opening of the court by offering platforms for discussion and knowledge transfer.
“Although this is a major development the wider issue of gaining a permanent High Court in the city is still on our agenda.
This is will not be easy to achieve but we are convinced that we have made a substantial case with clear evidence of the demand. Recently there has been coverage that the court system is being reviewed in the light of major cost cutting in the system and indeed, this will impact on the progress of bringing the resident High Court to the city.
However, Birmingham Forward and its partners are determined keep up the pressure as it will be in the long term interests of the city and for regional justice.”
Birmingham Forward, with its partners St Philips Chambers, No 5 Chambers, Birmingham Law Society and Deloitte have been lobbying the Judiciary and Government to change the way regional High Court justice is conducted for over three years.
The campaign involved research, consultation, private briefings, public meetings, representations and correspondence to ministers and senior judges and as a result Birmingham was finally awarded a permanent Administrative Court which will open in early 2009. The seminars will be hosted between October 2008 and February 2009 to explore the details of how the admin court will operate.
The first, recently held at St Philips Chambers, looked at social care and accommodation in the court and also provided some 50 attendees the opportunity to discuss how the admin court will resolve disputes between local authorities and disabled people in the provision of housing and accommodation under social care and discrimination legislation.
The next seminar taking place on November 6 at Deloitte in Birmingham will take a detailed look at procurement. Other seminars will explore immigration and planning.
The court is also expected to save taxpayers a hefty bill when it is starts early next year.
Birmingham City Council will be able to hold cases in Birmingham where it had previously had to travel down to London for them to be heard.