The justice secretary has set out plans to cut the number of ‘weak or ill-founded’ judicial reviews, which he claims are blocking the system and wasting money.
A consultation published today suggests:
- Reducing the time limits for bringing planning and procurement cases from three months to 30 days after an initial decision is made.- Removing the right to an oral renewal where a judge refuses permission where there has been a prior judicial process, or where the claim was judged to be ‘totally without merit’. The right to appeal to the court of appeal would be on the papers.- Introducing of a new fee of £215 (which could rise to £235 under separate proposals) for an oral renewal. If the oral renewal is successful, the fee for post-permission stages would be waived.
Chris Grayling said the proposals are designed to stem the growth in applications, the number of which has risen from 160 in 1974 to 11,200 in 2011. The biggest area of growth has been in the number of challenges to immigration and asylum decisions.
Of last year’s decided applications only 1,200 – one in six – were deemed suitable for a judicial review to go ahead.
Grayling said: ‘The system is becoming mired in large numbers of applications, many of which are weak or ill-founded, and they are taking up large amounts of judicial time, costing the court system money and can be hugely frustrating for the bodies involved in them.’
Judicial review, said Grayling, is being used increasingly by organisations for PR purposes. ‘Often the mere process of starting a judicial review will generate a headline,’ he said.
He told the commons in a written statement: ‘The government recognises that judicial review should remain an essential means of holding authorities to account and ensuring that decisions are lawful, and is committed to ensuring that access to justice and the rule of law are protected. We are, however, keen to seek views on how the process might be improved.’
He said the proposals ‘provide a balanced, practicable and targeted approach to ensure that legitimate claims are brought more quickly and efficiently to a resolution without affecting the right to properly hold the executive and other public bodies to account’.
Andy Slaughter, the shadow justice minister, criticised the proposals: 'Judicial review is a primary way of citizens holding the state to account, exposing wrongdoing and incompetence in government. So it is no surprise this government wants to close the door on independent scrutiny of its actions. At a time when developers are being given the green light to tear up the greenbelt, catastrophic decisions like the West Coast Mainline franchise are costing billions and basic human rights are threatened by welfare cuts, the power of the courts to review the arbitrary exercise of power by politicians has never been more relevant.'
The consultation runs until 24 January. It can be read on the Justice website.