Concerns about the current judicial review process could be resolved through education rather than drastic action, a former lord chief justice has suggested.

Crossbench peer Lord Woolf (Harry Woolf) made his suggestion in response to the Independent Review of Administrative Law’s call for evidence, which was titled ‘Does judicial review strike the right balance between enabling citizens to challenge the lawfulness of government action and allowing the executive and local authorities to carry on the business of government?’ His submission appears in a batch of responses that was recently uploaded.

Lord Woolf, who presided over the judiciary between 2000 and 2005, said: ‘Although I’m conscious that a great many years have now elapsed since I personally was engaged in judicial review and an equally long period of time has also elapsed since I had any managerial role as to judicial review, part of the perceived problem which causes the government to contemplate drastic change is down to a lack of understanding on the part of practitioners, administrators and officials of the reasons why judicial review is structured as it is. Therefore, that it should at least be considered, if this has not already happened, exploring whether education could not play a role in improving the situation.

‘To me it is ironic that while in the past, the complaint was made was that our system of judicial review was overprotective of the administration, apparently now the opposite is being said.

‘Conferences could be arranged to explain why it is said the pendulum has swung too far. If attendance was such that all sides were represented, conferences consistent with the independence of the judiciary could be organised, and this could alleviate the present problems.’

Days after closing a six-week consultation on judicial review reforms that went beyond the review’s recommendations, the government announced a Judicial Review Bill that would ‘restore the balance of power between the executive, legislature and the courts’. 

This week lord chancellor Robert Buckland defended the bill, telling ITV’s Peston that he will be proposing ‘incremental change’ in forthcoming measures.

The bill could appear this summer, when the government publishes its consultation response.