Detailed proposals to reduce the impact of ill-founded judicial reviews that are slowing down the courts have been announced by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling.
Mr Grayling is today seeking views on a package of measures to stem the growth in applications for judicial reviews. There were 11,200 applications last year, compared to just 160 in 1974 - and of last year’s decided applications only 1,200 (one in six) were deemed suitable for a Judicial Review to go ahead.
The changes will not alter the important role that Judicial Review plays in holding Government and others to account but will instead deal with the unnecessary delays in the system and the weak or meritless cases which are submitted even when they have no chance of success.
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said:
‘We have seen a huge surge in Judicial Review cases in recent years. 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.
‘I am concerned that Judicial Review is being used increasingly by organisations for PR purposes. Often the mere process of starting a Judicial Review will generate a headline.
‘We want go back to a system where Judicial Review is available for genuine claims, which provides people with access to Judicial Review where they need it but weeds out the cases that should frankly never be there in the first place.’
The public engagement exercise launched today will run until 24 January. It asks for views on how to improve the judicial review system and proposes the following:
- For planning cases - reducing the time after the initial decision that an application for Judicial Review can be lodged from three months to six weeks, to match the time limit for challenges to the High Court on planning matters
- For procurement cases - reducing the time after the initial decision that an application for Judicial Review can be lodged from three months to 30 days, to match the time limit for procurement appeals
- For cases based on a continuing issue or multiple decisions - clarifying the point when the time limit starts, to avoid long delays
- Scrapping oral renewals (which can be used to challenge a decision to refuse permission to bring a Judicial Review application) for any case which has already had a hearing before a judge on substantially the same matter, for example, at a court, tribunal or statutory inquiry
- Scrapping oral renewals for any case where the application for permission has been ruled to be ‘totally without merit’ by a judge on the papers
- Introducing a new fee for an oral renewal of £215 (but potentially rising to £235 under separate proposals)
- This complements separate proposals for increasing High Court and Court of Appeal fees, under which fees for Judicial Review applications would rise from £60 to £235, and fees to proceed to a hearing would increase from £215 to £235.
The responses to the public engagement will be considered before the next steps are set out.
These proposals are the latest of a series of moves to make the justice system more efficient and effective. These have included introducing flexible operating hours in criminal courts, increasing the use of video links between courts, prisons and police stations, reforms to civil claims and abolishing committal hearings for crown court cases.
Notes to editors:
- Visit the consultation.
- Visit the consultation on High Court and Court of Appeal fees.
- Judicial Review is a process by which individuals, businesses and other affected parties can challenge the lawfulness of decisions or actions of the Executive, including those of Ministers, local authorities, other public bodies and those exercising public functions. Certain protections are in principle provided against spurious claims: only those with sufficient interest are able to bring a case and they must first obtain permission for their case to be heard fully.
- The Court’s permission is required for a claim for Judicial Review to proceed. Decisions on permission are normally considered on a review of the papers filed. Permission may be granted in full, or limited to certain grounds set out in the claim. Where the Court refuses permission, at present the claimant may request that the decision is reconsidered at an oral hearing. If refused at that oral hearing, the claimant may consider whether he or she wishes to appeal to the Court of Appeal.
- Information about how the overall justice system works, how judges reach their sentencing decisions and how courts in each area are performing is available on the Open Justice website.
- For more information, please call the Ministry of Justice press office on 020 3334 3536. Follow us on twitter @MoJPress.