Appeals of civil cases are heard in London. No questions asked.

At least, that was how it was before three of Britain's most senior judges came to Birmingham.

Lord Justice Brooke, Lord Justice Latham and Lord Justice Neuberger swapped the Supreme Court on the Strand in London for a week in Birmingham city centre's Bull Street courtrooms.

Their visit marked a departure from the Londoncentric idea that Birmingham's barristers and lawyers should travel to the capital for a civil appeal.

The landmark case concerned asylum seeker Jafar Modares Nia who had fled Iran under the threat of torture and sought refuge in Digbeth, Birmingham.

The 35-year-old had been refused asylum by the Secretary of State once and by immigration courts twice.

On this occasion, however, the Lord Justices decided to grant him asylum.

Becket Bedford, the Birmingham barrister who represented Mr Nia, said: "The fact that the Court of Appeal sat in Birmingham is to be applauded. We, as barristers, always have to go to London every time we have an important point of law to appeal.

"The law has been Londoncentric for far too long and this

could be



the start of a trend

values the regions more.

demonstrates that vital decisions can be decided here.

"There appears to be a shift in mentality. I believe the Court of Appeal should sit in all the different courts in the country. The occasion was made even better by the fact that I won my case."

Steven Jonas, partner of Birmingham firm Jonas Roy Bloom, has written to the Lord Chief Justice and the Master of the Rolls to ask for the Court of Appeal to sit regularly in Birmingham.

Mr Jonas said: "This was the first time the civil division of the Court of Appeal has been to Birmingham and it was long overdue. There seems no reason why the Court of Appeal criminal and civil divisions should not sit for at least two weeks each year in Birmingham."

Jeremy Cousins QC, who chairs the Midland Chancery and Commercial Bar Association, said the visit demonstrated the commitment of senior judiciary to civil justice in the West Midlands.

He said: "This visit enabled the case to be disposed of more cheaply, rapidly and conveniently by all parties involved. It indicates that the Court of Appeal is sympathetic to the idea of regular sittings in Birmingham."

The Lord Justices, who visited Birmingham, have dealt with some of the most highprofile cases of recent years.

Early last month, Lord Justice Brooke ruled that 16-year-old Shabina Begum was unlawfully excluded from a Luton secondary school for wanting to wear a full-length jilbab gown to class.

Last July, Lord Justice Neuberger and two other judges refused to allow a group of exiled Indian Ocean islanders to return home. The exiles were forced to leave their island in the 1970s when it was taken over by the UK government.

In February 2000, Lord Justice Latham and two other senior judges decided that UK Home Secretary Jack Straw had acted unlawfully in refusing to disclose a medical report on former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.

The Court of Appeal hears cases of convicted people who feel they have not had a fair trial in the crown court, have been wrongfully convicted, or that the sentence imposed by the judges is unfair.