The freedom of parties to choose their lawyers should not “transform into an ability to choose a venue”, a High Court judge has said in moving a judicial review hearing from London to Leeds.
Mr Justice Fordham said the fact that all the lawyers involved were in London was a factor but not determinative.
It follows his decision in January to transfer a judicial review from London to Manchester.
The latest case was a claim for judicial review over the decision to maintain the claimant as a category A prisoner at HMP Full Sutton in York.
He objected to the transfer of the case from London to Leeds, saying London was the region with which he has the closest connection. Further, the defendant Ministry of Justice was based in London, as were all of the parties’ lawyers, meaning travel to Leeds would involve time and publicly funded expense for all parties.
However, the judge held that the claim had a “specific connection” to the North-East region for which Leeds was the regional Administrative Court.
“The applicable principle is that it should ‘if at all possible’ be administered and determined in that region. It is ‘possible’ to administer and determine the claim in that region. The claim has its ‘closest connection’ to the Leeds region. It has no ‘closer connection’ to the London region.
“Although other judicial review cases have been dealt with in London, I have not been shown any reasoned venue determination in those cases.”
Fordham J stressed that the choice of London lawyers by the parties would not, of itself, “drive” the choice of London as a venue for a judicial review claim.
“It is important of course that parties can choose their lawyers. But it is important that the choice of lawyers does not, of itself, serve to transform into an ability to choose a venue.”
The location of the lawyers was a factor, as were the cost and time implications of travel, “but also relevant is consideration of how it would undermine the purposes of ‘regionalisation’ if lawyer location and choice of lawyers were to dictate the answer to the question of venue”.
The purpose of ‘regionalisation’ was for cases to be heard at Administrative Court venue with which they have the closest connection, with London itself a regional venue.
The claim did not have its ‘closest connection’ with London, notwithstanding the location of the defendant and the lawyers – the ease and cost of travel, and public funding, were “not sufficient to drive a conclusion that the public interest calls for the proceedings being heard in London”, the judge concluded.