Who are the experts behind proposed Judicial Review reforms?

by Yusuf Odabashy

On 31st July 2020, the Ministry of Justice announced the panel of legal experts who will be undertaking an examination of the current process involved in Judicial Review. The review was a part of the government’s manifesto in the 2019 General Elections, as they committed to end the ‘abuse and delay’ in these court proceedings.

Aim of the Review

The Ministry of Justice stated the aim of the review is to consider “whether the right balance is being struck between the rights of citizens to challenge executive decisions, and the need for effective and efficient government”. The review itself will address four specific issues:

  1. ‘Whether the terms of Judicial Review should be written into law.’
  2. ‘Whether certain executive decisions should be decided on by Judges.’
  3. ‘Which grounds and remedies should be available in claims brought against the Government.’
  4. ‘Any further procedural reforms to Judicial Review, such as timings and the appeal process.’

Judicial Review is a court proceeding undertaken by the Administrative Court in which a judge will review the legality of a decision or action made by the government or any other public body. It is a process by which a judge will scrutinise how a decision was reached, and if the process used in making that decision was lawful or not. It is important to state that Judicial Review does not concern itself with the merits or outcome of the decision itself, and will not seek to change or correct it.

Who are the Panel Members ?

The panel will be chaired by a former Justice Minister (2014-2016) Lord Faulks QC. He has extensive experience when it comes to administrative law, having written publicly on the subject, most notably on Miller no.2 [2019], criticising the Supreme Court’s decision that Boris Johnson’s advice to prorogue parliament was unlawful.

Next on the panel is Vikram Sachdeva QC who was appointed chair of the Constitutional and Administrative Bar Association in September 2019. Sachdeva also has considerable experience in judicial review and human rights cases such as NHS Trust v Y [2018].

Carol Harlow QC specialises in administrative and EU law. Like Lord Faulks QC, she has also published several works on administrative law such as her article titled, ‘Public law and Popular Justice’ (2002). In it she criticised the politicisation of Judicial Review arguing against the involvement of ‘campaign groups’ in litigation. 

The last three members of the panel include Professor Alan Page, who has been teaching constitutional, administrative and EU law since 1985 at Dundee University and has also served as an advisor to the Scottish Government and Parliament. Then there is Celina Colquhoun who is a barrister specialising in planning and environmental law as well as advocating in public law cases. Finally, we have Nick McBride (you may recognise him as the author of your Tort law textbooks). As well as being a well-known author, he is a lecturer at Pembroke College, Cambridge.

Significance

It is evident that the panellists engaging in the review bring with them not just a wealth of knowledge, but also experience in dealing with high profile administrative law cases. No doubt this will certainly encourage a sense of confidence into the review and its findings.

Any decision reached by the panel to determine whether any reform is needed will however be expected to take around five months. The Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland has stated that Judicial Review will always be a process designed around “protecting citizens from an overbearing state” and that the review will ensure that “precious checks on government power are maintained”. Despite the reassurances that government accountability will not be adversely affected, Labour was quick to point out that appointing a former Conservative minister as Chair may undoubtably affect the independence of the panel and its proposals.

This article is intended for guidance only and must not be relied upon for specific advice.

 

 

 

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