The reforms contemplated by the Independent Review of Administrative Law risk undermining the health of our democracy
Posted on: 26th October 2020
Law firm Hodge Jones & Allen has responded to a call for evidence made by the Independent Review of Administrative Law and raised deep concerns that its current focus is suggesting restrictions be placed on the scope of this fundamental judicial process which are dangerous and unjustified. The review also does not appreciate or respect the constitutional importance of the process, nor its value to individuals and campaigning bodies across England & Wales.
Alice Hardy, Partner and Civil Liberties Solicitor at Hodge Jones & Allen, said:
“This review contemplates major constitutional reform which would have profound implications for the courts’ ability to uphold the rule of law. These reforms appear to be premised on the notion that basic judicial review principles have taken a wrong turn over the last 40 years. Indeed, the period which the review calls into question arguably spans back well over a century. It is not a simple exercise to examine a body of jurisprudence this large and suggest remedies for those aspects that government bodies find uncomfortable, nor is it one that should be undertaken lightly.”
Hodge Jones & Allen recognises that with any process improvements can always be made and would welcome a review of the rules of locus standii in judicial review proceedings, but not as a means of controlling costs, as appears to be proposed. There are already sufficient powers available to deal with unmeritorious claims. Limitation periods could also be reviewed to ensure individuals are not disproportionately disadvantaged.
Alice Hardy added:
“We accept that judicial reviews can be onerous on public bodies. However, the evidence is that there has been a steady decline in judicial review applications since 2015, likely as a result of reforms in 2012 and 2015 which placed significant hurdles in the way of claimants, on top of those that already existed. We see no justification for restricting access to justice still further, still less in such a wholescale, radical way, save for the Government’s evident wish to limit the courts’ ability to reach decisions that are embarrassing or inconvenient. There can be no doubt that to do so would disproportionately affect the vulnerable and disadvantaged.
“Ultimately, better quality government decision-making; better training, supervision and care would reduce the need to resort to judicial review, without threatening the courts’ practical ability to uphold the rule of law.”
Hodge Jones & Allen also echoes the apprehensions expressed by other law firms that the panel members are not fully representative of those concerned about the future of judicial review. This is a serious worry as practical experience and input from practising lawyers with expertise in claimant public law litigation and legal aid funded judicial review work, would surely be critical to the review.
Commenting further, Alice Hardy said:
“It is a sign of a healthy democracy if the courts are able to uphold the rule of law when necessary and the Government has the confidence to respect that process. For the Government to seek to dismantle judicial review in the manner apparently proposed in this review betrays its deep insecurity, and its willingness to scapegoat lawyers and judges for its own inadequacies, at the risk of undermining our constitutional stability,”
Please click here to read the firm’s response in full.
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