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A leading Birmingham set has set up a taskforce to justify the introduction of the only administrative court outside London following discussions with the Lord Chancellor.
Lord Irvine expressed an interest after the submissions of planning and environmental barristers Jeremy Cahill and Ian Dove of 5 Fountain Court. He visited the set after attending the official opening of the new building of rival set St Philip's Chambers.
Cahill says: "I was just dipping my toe in the water, but was taken aback by [the Lord Chancellor's] keenness. He said, 'You provide me with the evidence and we'll do it.'"
Cahill and Dove are responsible for providing financial justification for an administrative court, formerly known as Crown Office List.
Out of the 7-10 administrative courts which are sitting at any one time, the vast majority are in London, with occasional courts in Cardiff and Sheffield.
Cahill is confident that an administrative court would be of immense benefit. "Every other week one of the barristers is in London, and sometimes it's more than once," he says. "You wouldn't expect to have to go to London to see a surgeon, especially as the local bar in Birmingham can do the work."
The taskforce has entered into consultations with local councils and law firms Hammond Suddards Edge, Wragge & Co and Pinsent Curtis Biddle.
Tony McDaid, Fountain Court's practice director, believes the experience of his own set has revealed that there is a real need for a Birmingham-based administrative court. It would deal with public and administrative law issues and could emulate the highly successful Birmingham Mercantile Court.
McDaid says: "Over the last nine months, we've had at least 40 [administrative court] cases where barristers have been forced to travel to London. Yet if there had been a local court, we could have reduced costs for all concerned and eased the burden on the London courts."
Cahill believes that Lord Irvine's interest is in line with Government policy. He says: "Regional autonomy is the theme of the Government, and this will help to reduce costs in terms of having to instruct separate solicitors in London."
The Lord Chancellor's Department is now expecting the local bar and the Law Society to make a case for an administrative court in Birmingham. A spokesman says: "It will be considered with interest."