Human Rights Committee report on proposed judicial review reforms

The Joint Committee on Human Rights published its Thirteenth Report of the 2013-14 Session, The implications for access to justice of the Government’s proposals to reform judicial review on 30 April 2014 as House of Lords Paper 174 and House of Commons Paper 868.

Summary:

This Report follows on from our previous Report into the implications for access to justice of the Government’s proposed reforms to legal aid, and assesses those implications with regard to the Government’s proposals to reform judicial review.

Restrictions on access to justice are in principle capable of justification; discouraging weak applications and reducing unnecessary delay and expense, for example are clearly legitimate aims, and, where evidence shows a need for change exists, proportionate restrictions which serve those aims will be justifiable.

In our view, the Government’s proposals on judicial review expose the conflict inherent in the combined roles of the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice which raises issues which should be considered by a number of parliamentary committees. We think the time is approaching for there to be a thoroughgoing review of the effect of combining in one person the roles of Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice and of the consequent restructuring of departmental responsibilities between the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice.

We recognise that there has been a substantial increase recently in the number of judicial reviews but this has been largely because of the predictable and foreseen increase in the number of immigration cases being pursued by way of judicial review. Such cases have been transferred from the High Court to the Upper Tribunal since November 2013 and no assessment has been made since of whether the number of judicial review cases is still increasing. The number of judicial reviews has remained remarkably steady when the increase in the number of immigration judicial reviews is disregarded. We therefore do not consider the Government to have demonstrated by clear evidence that non-immigration related judicial review has “expanded massively” in recent years as the Lord Chancellor claims, that there are real abuses of the process taking place, or that the current powers of the courts to deal with such abuse are inadequate.

Link to report (PDF)

A blog by Angela Patrick, Director of Human Rights Policy at JUSTICE, published on 30 April summarises the report.

The Equality an Diversity Forum wrote a letter to peers on 30 April about Civil Legal Aid (Remuneration) (Amendment) (no 3) Regulations 2014.