The government’s response to its own independent review of administrative law was being used as ‘cover for sweeping constitutional reform’ and ‘misrepresents’ the findings, according to Liberty. The group issued its warning in its response to the Ministry of Justice’s judicial review reform consultation which closed on April 29th and followed the Independent Review of Administrative Law chaired by Lord Faulks QC.
As reported previously, the lord chancellor pledged to ‘go further’ to ‘protect the judiciary from political entanglements’ by reforming judicial review despite the modest recommendations made by the Faulks review which concluded that ministers could ‘be confident that the courts will respect institutional boundaries in exercising their inherent powers to review the legality of government action’. ‘Politicians should, in turn, afford the judiciary the respect which it is undoubtedly due when it exercises these powers,’ it added.
According to Liberty, the Government has ‘misrepresented’ the Faulks review and that this misrepresentation was ‘now being used as cover for wide-ranging proposals that would weaken the vital role of judicial review as a safeguard on rights and our democracy’. Liberty warns in its response to the consultation that the Government plans would ‘damage people’s ability to access justice and uphold their rights; weaken a crucial tool to hold governments and public bodies to account; erode the rule of law – and by extension undermine the UK’s democracy’.
‘The Government’s plans are part of a much bigger attempt to put itself beyond scrutiny in the courts, in Parliament and on the streets,’ the group continues. ‘Recent months have seen countless pieces of legislation pass into law without proper parliamentary scrutiny, meanwhile the crackdown on protest has damaged people’s ability to make their voices heard.’
‘We all want to live in a fair and equal democracy,’ said Sam Grant, Liberty’s head of policy and campaigns. ‘No one should be above the law and judicial review protects that principle, allowing ordinary people to hold government and public authorities to account. If judicial review is limited, we’re on a dangerous path where governments – both now and in the future – can no longer be held to account.’
The home secretary Priti Patel has also attacked law firms specialising in judicial reviews, castigating them as ‘activist lawyers’ and ‘lefty human rights lawyers’ that ‘hamstrung’ the criminal justice system. These comments were following successful judicial reviews that demonstrated that the Secretary of State attempted to unlawfully remove and deport individuals without adequate due process—leading to judges stopping the removals and deportations from going ahead.