Changes to judicial review

On 23 April 2013, the Government released its response to its December 2012 consultation paper “Judicial review: proposals for reform”. The original consultation paper can be accessed here. YLAL’s response to the consultation submitted in January 2013, can be accessed here. The Government response can be accessed here. In outline, the Government has announced its intention to:

  • reduce the time limits for bringing planning and procurement cases to six weeks and 30 days respectively;
  • charge a court fee where a Claimant seeks an oral hearing to argue that they should be granted permission to seek judicial review;
  • remove the automatic right to an oral hearing where the case is certified by a judge on the papers as “totally without merit”.

However, the Government has abandoned plans to:

  • introduce more restrictive rules on the time limits for bringing cases where the public body under scrutiny is acting unlawfully on an ongoing basis;
  • restrict the right to an oral hearing in cases where the individual is seeking judicial review of a prior judicial decision, such as the decision of a bench of lay magistrates or the parole board.

While we are pleased that the more damaging proposals have been abandoned we remain concerned that the Government is proceeding with changes which affect the ability of the citizen to access the court, without a proper evidence base to justify the change. A blog by one of our members on the dubious statistics underpinning the changes can be read here. More worryingly last week the Government announced further plans to cut legal aid in its consultation paper “Transforming Legal Aid: Delivering a more credible and efficient system”. Among the more egregious proposals are plans to all but scrap legal aid for prisoners, to make legal aid subject to a “residence test” – excluding swathes of migrants from the protection of the law – and to restrict the right of the citizen to hold the state to account through the medium of judicial review. In the context of these new proposals we are deeply concerned by the Government’s apparent willingness to proceed with “on the hoof”, reactionary, policy making.