The legal profession rallies to challenge Judicial Review restrictions
24 October 2014 by Ashlee Campbell
‘If a government department or local authority did something you thought was unlawful, like stop your business from trading, close your mother’s care home or relocate your child’s school, what would you do? Judicial review is an important tool to stop dodgy decision-making by public authorities. It is fundamental to our system of justice and the rule of law that members of the public, including the weakest and most vulnerable, have an effective means of scrutinising and checking executive power.’ – Chairman of the Bar Council, Nicholas Lavender QC
The above quote is a damning judgement from the Bar Council, which has been joined by the two other big legal professions (The Law Society and The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives) in chastising a Bill which plans to make it harder to hold government and public bodies accountable in court for their actions.
Packaged originally as an attack on red tape, the first mention of a clampdown on judicial review was during a speech made by David Cameron to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) in 2012. Back then, plans to restrict judicial review were supposedly concerned with reducing delays in the planning industry for commercial property. However, the turbulent journey of the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill through parliament saw plans for a tougher test for organisations (such as charities) to bring forth judicial review being scrapped as the crusade to hack through red tape and streamline judicial review impacted every area of policy.
The Legal Profession is now calling upon peers to support an amendment to Part 4 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill which would remove the automatic expectation that charities and other organisations intervening in judicial review cases would have to pay costs incurred by other parties as a result of their intervention. The Law Society says that Part 4 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill would;
• Restrict the use of protective costs orders limiting judicial review to the wealthy
• Expose people not party to judicial review, including friends, relatives and associates of claimants, to the financial risk of paying costs
• Discourage helpful contributions made by charities, NGOs and others (known as ‘interveners’) by making them liable for costs, even when they make positive contributions to our courts’ consideration of difficult legal problems, and
• Shield public bodies from proper scrutiny when they act unlawfully.
The Joint Select Committee on Human Rights released a report last week which called into question the dual role of Chris Grayling, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice. In the eyes of the report, “the lord chancellor’s energetic pursuit of reforms which place direct limits on the ability to access the courts” represents the conflicting role that Grayling holds. The role of the Lord Chancellor is to stand up for justice within government: however it is being suggested that his ministerial position is restricting his ability to uphold the independence of the judiciary and the report draws attention to the effect of his politicising the role of Lord Chancellor.
At Fisher Jones Greenwood we have always held a public law franchise to bring Judicial Reviews for our clients against the arbitrary decision making of the Secretary of State for the Home Department. We continue to try and obtain the legal aid funding to issue these JR’s under this franchise since this remains the only option for a number of our clients to obtain justice under the law.
Our experienced immigration department regularly lodges Judicial Reviews, both under the Public Law franchise and on a privately paying basis. Should you require further information, please do not hesitate to contact the immigration team on 01206 835270