Litigants from outside London will be expected in future to state reasons for their case to be diverted to the capital under new rules.
The Civil Procedure Rule Committee (CPRC) has amended existing regulations to require an explanation why a case is not suitable for hearing in regional specialist courts.
In a report last July, Mr Justice Coulson noted that specialist judges in Manchester and Leeds were concerned at the number of cases being diverted to the capital.
Coulson concluded that the diversion of work was not a ‘critical issue’ and urged the committee not to take the most extreme option of insisting that parties should start the claim in the centre with which the claimant has the closest connection.
Instead, he proposed amending existing rules asking parties to say why London is a more suitable venue.
Practice direction 29 will now state that parties must explain in their directions questionnaire why the case is not suitable for hearing in the appropriate specialist regional court.
The additional section states: ‘Those regional specialist court centres have been set up to deal with appropriate cases out of London, so the parties will need to state in detail why, despite the availability of a regional specialist court, they wish the case to be heard in London.’
According to minutes of the committee's December meeting published yesterday, Coulson said both parties in two separate cases have told him since his report that they preferred London because more judges are available and cases get on faster.
He said that on asking around he found this to be a commonly held view.
The CPRC said it had considered amendments to rules in relation to rates, with Coulson noting that rates were better for hearings in London.
But the committee said it opted not to act following a written response from senior costs judge Andrew Gordon-Saker, who gave an ‘absolute assurance’ that no costs judge or costs officer would allow a higher hourly rate simply because the case was heard in London.
‘The only relevant geographical factor is the location where the work was done,’ said Gordon-Saker. ‘The guideline hourly rates are based only on the location of the solicitor, not the location of the hearing.’