Government proposals to provide courts with personal and financial information of third-party contributors could cause judicial review proceedings to collapse, the Law Society has said in response to a government consultation.
The Ministry of Justice is proposing to provide courts with financial information to help decide how to award costs in judicial review cases.
Publishing its response today, the Society argued that provisions in sections 85 and 86 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 were sufficient to address the ministry’s aims and its latest proposals ‘would add little value’ to the current system.
It was unclear, the Society said, when the claimant would be expected to inform third-party contributors that their details might need to be provided to the court and that they may be liable for costs.
‘Would the duty to inform arise at the point at which a donation was made, even if litigation was not a realistic prospect at that point?’ the Society asked.
If third parties were not informed until legal action was underway, ‘there is a risk that contributors might withdraw their funding because of concerns over their personal data being made available, causing the case to collapse’, it said.
Another issue requiring clarity was where the responsibility lay for telling claimants that financial information may be provided.
If there are numerous third-party funders, the Society said, ‘the cost and time involved in writing to each of them individually would be considerable for claimants’.
Where third-party funding is raised through websites such as CrowdJustice, the Society asked whether claimants would be expected to communicate with individual third-party funders.
‘There may also be difficulties for claimants in obtaining the contact details of individual funders in this situation due to those websites’ data-protection policies,’ it said.
The Society also called for clarification on whether individuals who make a partial contribution to a fund that totals £1,500 or more would be liable for costs in proportion to the level of funding they provided.
In its consultation, the MoJ said a £1,500 threshold was introduced ‘in response to concerns about the chilling effect of the provision of information to the court in judicial review proceedings’.