ACEVO criticises proposed changes to judicial review

ACEVO has responded critically to the government’s proposals to reform judicial review; specifically, the proposals to restrict the ability of representative organisations such as charities to lodge judicial review cases on behalf of those they serve.

Sir Stephen Bubb, CEO of ACEVO, said: “These proposals represent an un-evidenced, ideologically-driven attack on civil society’s ability to hold public authorities to account on behalf of citizens.

"They would deny access to justice to members of vulnerable and marginalised groups who rely on charities to represent them and ensure their rights are upheld. The government must go back to the drawing board and abandon these disastrous plans.”

The consultation paper states that ‘the number of judicial review applications has more than doubled in recent years.’

However, ACEVO says this rise is entirely a result of growth in asylum and immigration cases: when these cases are excluded, the number of judicial reviews has stayed constant at around 2,000 per year for the last ten years.

ACEVO notes that the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling wrote a column in the Daily Mail on 6th September 2013 describing judicial review as ‘a promotional tool for countless Left-wing campaigners’, and characterising charities’ use of judicial review as ‘left-wing-dominated, single-issue activism.

ACEVO says the Judicial review provides a vital mechanism to ensure that public authorities abide by the law in the decisions they take and the government’s proposals appear to be based on an ideologically-driven view of the judicial review process which entirely ignores its importance as a check and balance on public authorities.

Stephen Bubb noted that a core function of civil society is to provide a voice for those who otherwise face barriers to engagement with the policy-making process, including marginalised and vulnerable groups in society.

This includes the use of judicial review to ensure that public authorities act in accordance with the law, and are challenged and held to account when they fail to do so.

The proposals set out in the consultation document could severely curtail the ability of charities to lodge judicial reviews on behalf of their beneficiaries, removing a vital check and balance on public authorities, and removing an essential route by which the legal rights of marginalised and vulnerable groups are upheld.

ACEVO said charities initiate judicial reviews in order to protect the legal rights of those they serve: and to characterise this as ‘a campaigning tool’ is to fundamentally misunderstand this important function.

It suggests that the government would rather see a quick decision than a good one, and views compliance with the law of the land as an unnecessary distraction for public authorities.

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