A cross-party parliamentary group has urged the government not to pursue a ‘nuclear option’ in its judicial review reforms that could result in serious human rights abuses.

In a report published today, the Joint Committee on Human Rights says the government should introduce procedural reforms for so-called Cart JRs, rather than discontinue this particular legal avenue.

The Judicial Review and Courts Bill would reverse the effect of the Supreme Court’s 2011 judgment in Cart, which would prevent Upper Tribunal appeals being subject to judicial review.

However, the joint committee says the vast majority of Cart JRs relate to immigration and asylum claims. ‘In such cases, fundamental human rights such as the right to life and the right not to be tortured are frequently at stake. If the tribunal makes an error it can result in a claimant being returned to face persecution, serious human rights abuses or even death in their country of origin. Removing the right to judicially review refusals of permission to appeal in all but the most exceptional circumstances will result in a, statistically small, number of these cases being wrongly decided, and those individuals facing a real risk of serious human rights abuses.’

The committee suggests that procedural changes could reduce the number of unjustified JR applications being made without precluding Cart JRs altogether. For instance, increasing the time period for lodging a Cart JR application would give lawyers more opportunity to consider the merits of bringing a JR before issuing proceedings, rather than rushing into making unjustified and poorly prepared applications.

In public bill committee sessions, Cart cases were repeatedly described in terms of multiple ‘bites of the cherry’.

Today’s report from the human rights committee says judicial supervision would protect the upper tribunal against legal error. ‘The government should introduce procedural reforms, such as changes to time limits for bringing Cart judicial review, and assess their impact, before pursuing the “nuclear option” of ousting judicial review from Cart cases,’ the committee says.