A government inquiry in judicial review lacked credibility and its panel was not ‘representative’, according to leading public law specialists. In July, the Ministry of Justice announced that a panel of experts, chaired by Lord Edward Faulks QC, would undertake an independent review of administrative law to ascertain whether there is a need to reform judicial review.
The review would deliver on a manifesto commitment to ensure that judicial review processes was ‘not open to abuse and delay’. The review is to look at ‘whether the right balance is being struck between the rights of citizens to challenge executive decisions and the need for effective and efficient government’.
In an open letter, leading law firms Leigh Day, Bindmans, Irwin Mitchell, Bhatt Murphy and Deighton Pierce Glynn argue that without an open call for evidence early in the process it would ‘not be possible for the review to be genuine and fair’.They have also complained that that the panel members were ‘not fully representative of those concerned about the future of judicial review’.
Specifically, it would consider:
- Whether the terms of Judicial Review should be written into law
- Whether certain executive decisions should be decided on by judges
- Which grounds and remedies should be available in claims brought against the government
- Any further procedural reforms to Judicial Review, such as timings and the appeal process
The review will focus on whether the terms of judicial review should be codified into statute, whether particular political decisions should be decided on by judges, the availability of certain grounds and remedies brought against the government and any procedural reforms to judicial review.
The five firms have called on the government to include practising lawyers with expertise in claimant law public law litigation and legal aid funded judicial review work. ‘For such a review to be credible, its terms need to be widened significantly, and the membership of the panel needs to more fully reflect the legal body that carries out judicial review work,’ they say. ‘If it is not, then any premise underlying this review, that judicial review is routinely abused by claimants, may go uncorrected.’
The appointed panel constitutes Lord Faulks QC (chair), Carol Harlow QC, professor at LSE; Vikram Sachdeva QC, 39 Essex Chambers, chair of the Constitutional and Administrative Law Bar Association; Alan Page, professor of law at Dundee University; Celina Colquhoun, planning and environmental barrister; Nick McBride, fellow of Pembroke College, Cambridge. Between them, they have expertise in constitutional, Administrative, EU, Tax and Commercial and Human rights law.
Lord Faulks was previously minister of state for civil justice when David Cameron was prime minister between 2013-2016. There has been criticism amongst lawyers that he was the ‘right-hand minister’ to the former justice secretary Chris Grayling when he attempted to restrict judicial review. Further, earlier this year, Lord Faulks wrote in an article on Conservative Home that the supreme court ruling in the Miller case that prorogation of parliament was unlawful amounted to a ‘significant, unjustified constitutional shift’.