Public Law Project has submitted its response to the consultation, Judicial Review: Proposals for Reform.

Read Public Law Project’s consultation response here.

Our introduction to the consultation reminds policy-makers that judicial review exists to ensure fair and lawful public administration and promote high quality public decision-making. It ensures that the executive obeys the laws enacted by Parliament and guarantees that individuals have access to justice and redress following unlawful state conduct. In his foreword to the consultation, the Lord Chancellor makes clear that he agrees with these principles.

Regretfully, however, this package of proposals does not serve those principles. If anything, they undermine them. PLPs consultation response states that the proposals go too far in restricting access to justice and fair outcomes for individuals. The impact of the proposals is not justified by the weight of evidence or the Government’s underlying concerns. The result is a set of changes which are disproportionate and unjustified.

In our response, we directly address the concerns identified by the consultation and demonstrate how they are already satisfactorily resolved by current arrangements and, where they are not, we show how the Government’s proposals can be made more proportionate and sustainable while still accomplishing the underlying objectives.

Jo Hickman, Director of PLP said: “Everyone benefits when governments are accountable to the people they serve. That is why people need access to an effective system of redress when governments act unlawfully. Judicial review is such a system.

“The Government’s judicial review proposals undermine these principles. These ‘reforms’ would weaken citizens’ ability to get a fair and just outcome when the state acts unlawfully. The proposals deviate far from the Government’s own manifesto commitment; to protect the individual against an over-bearing state.

“The Government has not presented evidence that would justify taking making it harder for people to hold the state to account. It is pursuing reform for problems that do not exist. Even worse, Government misrepresented to Parliament what the independent panel said about the evidence which does exist, and has refused to publish the documents that Government departments submitted to that panel. The result is that the consultation proposals may be based on material which is still being kept out of the public eye.

“We urge policy-makers not to restrict the remedies that are currently available in judicial review. The Government should immediately publish all the evidence submitted to the Independent Review of Administrative Law.

“Proposals with constitutional implications need to meet a high evidential threshold, to be measured and transparent. The approach this Government is taking in this reform process is, unfortunately, some way off that minimum standard.”