Parties that want to transfer cases to London will need to provide a much fuller explanation as to why, the Civil Procedure Rules Committee (CPRC) has decided.
However, it said there was no need to make it clear in the rules that where hearings are heard in the capital, costs will be payable with reference to where the work is done, after the Senior Costs Judge assured members that costs judges always do this anyway.
Newly released papers from the CPRC’s December meeting said that it agreed to amend practice direction 29 and part 30 so that there was a requirement for parties who wanted the case to be heard in London to state “much more fully than now” how and why the case was suitable for trial there.
A new clause will be inserted in the practice direction to say that if the claim falls within a specialist list or area of work and concerns a dispute arising in a region outside London, “the parties are required to explain in their directions questionnaire how and why the case is not suitable to be heard in the appropriate regional specialist court.
“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.”
Rule 30.3 deals with the criteria for a transfer order for, amongst other things, the transfer between the RCJ and the district registries, with one of the criteria listed as “the availability of a judge specialising in the type of claim in question”.
This will be amended to read: “The availability of a judge specialising in the type of claim in question and/or the availability of a specialist judge sitting in an appropriate regional specialist court.”
On costs, the CPRC felt that there were number of cases which already make plain that issues such as where the work was done will be considered by the costs judge, and the current position was reinforced by Senior Costs Judge Andrew Gordon-Saker when asked his views.
He told the sub-committee: “CPR 44.4(3) provides that in assessing costs the court will ‘have regard to… (g) the place where and the circumstances in which work or any part of it was done’. I can give you my absolute assurance that no costs judge or costs officer would allow a higher hourly rate simply because the case is heard in London.
“The only relevant geographical factor is the location where the work was done. The guideline hourly rates are based only on the location of the solicitor, not the location of the hearing. I really do not think that a change in the rules is necessary, because it is already there.”
The sub-committee’s report concluded: “Finally, it will be recalled that there was a suggestion that the approach to costs management might explain a preference for London. There is no evidence of that, although there are concerns about inconsistencies in costs management from one court centre to another, and from one judge to another (whether in London or outside London). This is not therefore something we can take forward at present.”