The government has submitted to the profession’s concerns about reform of judicial review rules relating to funding declarations.
In a consultation response published last week, the Ministry of Justice confirmed it will double the level of funding at which third parties backing the litigation are required to be named.
The news will come as a relief to lawyers who were concerned at being forced into wider disclosure of financial backers of a judicial review application.
Claimants will have to make a limited declaration around their finances, stating if they intend to meet liabilities from their own resources, whether legal aid has been granted, or whether funding is coming from another source.
But the claimant will not be required to name any third-party contributor unless they have pledged more than £3,000.
Last year’s consultation had set the figure at £1,500, but this led to objections including from the Civil Justice Council, the senior judiciary and national firm Irwin Mitchell, which wanted a limit of £15,000.
The MoJ agreed that its original figure would see the court provided with ‘unacceptably large amounts of unnecessary material’. Instead the revised £3,000 figure will capture situations where a third party has control of a claim and eliminate minor contributions.
‘This amount is sufficiently significant for most people that there will be an expectation in many cases that those contributing in excess of this amount will be involved in the running of the claim,’ said the MoJ.
‘It is right that the court be made aware of people making further contributions of this scale.’
The details enclosed in the response flesh out the reforms passed in part four of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015.
The MoJ said the changes strike the best balance between providing the court with useful information and avoiding placing claimants under too onerous a duty.
But the government has invited further views on one aspect, namely the provision of financial information to other parties.
In last year’s consultation, it was proposed that financial information be available to the court but not publicly or to the defendant, but some respondents to the consultation raised concerns about ‘equality of arms’ and parties’ ability to make representations on costs.
The 2015 act also legislated to replace protective costs orders in judicial reviews with a new costs-capping order.
Where an applicant wants the court to make a costs-capping order, they will have to apply to the court, setting out information to support the application.
This will include details such as the applicant’s significant assets and significant regular expenditure, any third-party funding received and a schedule of costs.
In a foreword to the government response, justice minister Shailesh Vara (pictured) said the implementation of reforms will not undermine the important role of judicial review, but will prevent claimants from avoiding liability or their costs and passing these on to the taxpayer.