Barristers tell MP's: don't let the Government duck legal challenges to dodgy decision-making

26 November 2014

The Bar Council has urged barristers to write to their constituency MPs in an effort to curb some of the excesses of the government's attack on judicial review, the legal mechanism used by individuals, groups, businesses and charities to challenge illegal decision-making by public bodies.

Chairman of the Bar Council, Nicholas Lavender QC said: "We are calling on barristers to get involved because they have experience of cases where people have borne the brunt of dodgy decision-making by public authorities. The judicial review process is used to challenge decisions such as closing care homes or schools, moving hospitals, or giving planning approval for large and controversial projects. The government is passing legislation to make it harder for public authorities, including the government itself, to be challenged on the legality of their decision-making. If this happens, the public will lose out."

"The Government has consistently tried to justify restricting judicial review by peddling the myth that it has been hi-jacked by left-wing campaigning groups. This is neither fair nor accurate. Judicial review is used by applicants of all political views, and none.   For instance, it was used by the Conservative Bromley Council to challenge the transport policy of Ken Livingstone's GLC.  With judicial review, whoever wins the case, the result of the process can be that the law is clarified, and that is in the public interest.

"Judicial review is used by people who are affected by what they believe to be an unlawful decision by a public authority. Cases are brought by individuals, families, community groups, privately owned companies, business groups, and charities.  Public authorities make decisions which can fundamentally change people's lives for the worse.  It is important that these decisions are taken properly and that unlawful decisions can be challenged.  Yet by changing the rules on judicial review, the government will help protect itself from legal challenge."

A number of amendments were made to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill as it passed through the House of Lords last month, which made significant improvements to the Bill and lessened the damage which it will do to judicial review. These amendments are being considered by MPs in the Commons on 1 December. The Bar Council, along with the Law Society and Chartered Institute of Legal Executives, is calling on MPs to accept these amendments.
 

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Notes to editors:

1. A letter is available on our website here for barristers to use to email their MP in support of the Lords amendments.

2. A briefing note produced by the Bar Council, The Law Society and the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) as also available on our website here.

3. Further information is available from the Bar Council Press Office on 020 7222 2525 and Press@BarCouncil.org.uk.

4. The  Bar Council represents barristers in England and Wales. It promotes:

  • The Bar's high quality specialist advocacy and advisory services

  • Fair access to justice for all

  • The highest standards of ethics, equality and diversity across the profession, and

  • The development of business opportunities for barristers at home and abroad.

The General Council of the Bar is the Approved Regulator of the Bar of England and Wales. It discharges its regulatory functions through the independent Bar Standards Board