PRACTICE DIRECTION 66 – CROWN PROCEEDINGS
Rule 30.3(2) sets out the circumstances to which the court must have regard when considering whether to make an order under section 40(2), 41(1) or 42(2) of the County Courts Act 1984 (transfer between the High Court and County Court), rule 30.2(1) (transfer between county courts) or rule 30.2(4) (transfer between the Royal Courts of Justice and the district registries).
From time to time the Attorney General will publish a note concerning the organisation of the Government Legal Service and matters relevant to the venue of Crown proceedings, for the assistance of practitioners and judges. When considering questions of venue under rule 30.3(2), the court should have regard to the Attorney General's note in addition to all the other circumstances of the case.
Service of Documents
In civil proceedings by or against the Crown, documents required to be served on the Crown must be served in accordance with rule 6.10 or 6.23(7).
(The list published under section 17 of the Crown Proceedings Act 1947 of the solicitors acting for the different government departments on whom service is to be effected, and of their addresses is annexed to this Practice Direction).
ANNEX 1Disputes as to Venue – Factors to be taken into Consideration
Attorney General’s Note to Supplement the Practice Direction
Until the recent rule changes, the Crown was entitled in High Court matters to insist that venue was the Royal Courts of Justice in London (RCJ) (RSC O77, rule 2). This rule has now been revoked. A new rule 30.3(2)(h) provides that in cases involving civil proceedings by or against the Crown, when considering whether to order a transfer of those proceedings, the court must have regard to, ‘the location of the relevant government department or officers of the Crown and, where appropriate, any relevant public interest that the matter should be tried in London.’
The Practice Direction to Part 66, at paragraph 2, provides that the Attorney-General will publish a note concerning the organisation of the Government Legal Service and matters relevant to the venue of Crown Proceedings, for the assistance of practitioners and judges. When considering questions of venue under rule 30.3(2), the court should have regard to the Attorney-General’s note in addition to all the other circumstances of the case.
This note sets out the further factors to be taken into consideration where there is a dispute as to venue between a claimant and a government department. Where there is such a dispute, it should be dealt with at a case management conference.
Organisation of the Government Legal Service
The Government Legal Service (GLS) has the responsibility for advising the Government about its legal affairs and has the conduct of civil litigation on its behalf. The Treasury Solicitor conducts this litigation for the majority of Government Departments but lawyers in HM Revenue and Customs, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Department for Work and Pensions (which also acts for the Department of Health and the Food Standards Agency) have the conduct of litigation for their Departments. All Government litigation lawyers are based in the London with the exception of HM Revenue and Customs, whose personal injury lawyers are in Manchester. A full list of addresses for service is annexed to the Practice Direction accompanying Part 66 of the CPR.
Factors be taken into account generally
Whilst a number of government departments have offices outside London, central government bodies are based in London and the GLS is geared towards processing claims in the RCJ (see above). Where there is a High Court claim, many witnesses as well as lawyers and officials are London based and there may be a disproportionate cost in transferring them to a venue outside London. That is not to say, bearing in mind the overriding objective, that the Crown would oppose transfer away from the RCJ where it was appropriate, for example in personal injury disputes.
Some cases have important precedent value or are of general importance to the public, which may make them more suitable for being heard in the RCJ.
Special Considerations in relation to HM Revenue and Customs
HM Revenue and Customs has no lawyers outside London, except for those personal injury lawyers based in Manchester.
The work of HM Revenue and Customs is very specialised, needing in many cases to be dealt with by specialist judges in the Chancery Division familiar, for example, with tax work.
There is also the public interest to consider. All revenue cases (including those of HM Revenue and Customs) have important precedent value that applies across the entire tax system, with implications for the Exchequer.