6 November saw the long-awaited opening of the Administrative Court at the Bristol Civil Justice Centre.
An opening ceremony presided over by the Rt Honourable Sir John Thomas, President of the Queen’s Bench Division was followed by the first case being heard, unusually, by a 3 judge divisional court: Thomas LJ; Beatson and Burnett JJ.
The arrival of the Administrative Court has been a long time coming. Originally overlooked when regionalisation to Manchester, Leeds, Cardiff and Birmingham was first proposed in the 2007 report “Justice Outside London”, the Western Circuit and Bristol Law Society, then under the command of Tony Woodburn, launched a bid to include Bristol as a late addition. After first winning approval and the backing of the then QBD President, Sir Anthony May, the plans appeared to have becoming stuck as cuts bit deep into HM Courts’ Service budgets. However, with the backing of local solicitors and the bar, and following great efforts by the Presiding Judges of the Western Circuit, Bristol is now up and running as a regional centre.
At the opening ceremony Sir John stressed the advantages of using Bristol for all South West cases: the court, especially during its initial phase, was highly likely to offer a much faster service with hearing times being less than those in London or Cardiff. Responding on behalf of the bar and solicitors and welcoming the judges to Bristol, Robin Tolson QC stressed the vital need for local practitioners to use the service. There was simply no need to go further afield and significant disadvantages in doing so.