A Freedom of Information request by Public Law Project has revealed that the Government lost or disposed of the only record of a meeting between its lawyers and Sir Rupert Jackson at which they discussed costs measures designed to improve access to judicial review.

The FOI request was submitted by PLP’s Research Director Joe Tomlinson following the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) consultation on extending fixed recoverable costs in civil cases.

In its consultation paper, the MoJ rejected recommendations made by Sir Rupert, including extending the ‘Aarhus’ rule to all judicial reviews, on the basis of a meeting with the Government Legal Department at which the evidence for his concerns on access to judicial review was ‘queried’.

This meeting was a reference point for the Ministry’s view that there was no access to justice issue in judicial review, a position which was then reflected in the Ministry’s consultation paper. As PLP’s Freedom of Information request revealed, there is no record of that meeting.

As reported in the Law Society Gazette, PLP Research Director said:

“The right to challenge unlawful government decisions by judicial review is a vital constitutional safeguard, but the MoJ’s [consultation] appeared to dismiss the fact that there are significant financial barriers that prevent people from exercising this right.

“The government’s justification for swerving the access to justice issue seems to hinge on a meeting between the Government Legal Department and Sir Rupert Jackson, of which there appears to be no record. As judicial review remains unaffordable to most people, it is disappointing that the provenance of the decision-making process seems so shaky.”