The Ministry of Justice has released its response to the comments generated by the consultation paper on judicial review that was published in December. Unsurprisingly, the Government has signalled that it intends to press ahead with most of the proposals upon which it consulted. In particular, it plans to implement the following proposals:
Time limitsThe time limit for judicial review (which at three months is already very short) will be reduced to six weeks in planning cases and thirty days in procurement cases. The Government recognizes that these timescales are so short that compliance with the Pre-Action Protocol will be impossible, so it will invite the judiciary to disapply the Protocol in such cases. Given that one of the objectives of the Pre-Action Protocol is to encourage pre-litigious resolution of disputes, it is not clear how this will promote the Government’s objective of reducing recourse to litigation.
R (on the application of H) v Kingston Upon Hull City Council & KS, AS, SS, TS and FS (Interested Parties)  EWHC 388 (Admin)read judgment
This was a successful claim for judicial review brought by a mother in care proceedings in respect of her two children who were removed from the care of the paternal grandparents. To that extent, it is a first. It concerns the duty on the Local Authority to consult with parents when an Interim Care Order is in place.
The claim raised two points. The first concerned whether it was permissible to bring a claim for JR when there were ongoing care proceedings and secondly the extent of the Local Authority’s duty to consult with parents when an ICO is in force. As to the latter point, there were two decisions that were challenged by the mother. The first was a decision taken on 31st January 2013 and the second concerned a decision taken on 1st February 2013 both concerning the placement of her children under the ICO.
Remember Pearl Harbour? Not the 1941 attack which propelled the USA into World War II, but the awful 2001 film starring Ben Affleck. What really sticks in the mind wasn’t the film itself, but the critical reaction. It is hard to remember a more gleeful spectacle, captured here, than reviewers falling over themselves to see who could produce the most withering response.
No doubt inspired by the Prime Minister’s own World War II analogy (on reflection, something of a hostage to fortune), legal commentators and organisations have also been falling over themselves, if not gleefully, to express their collective displeasure and disbelief at the poor quality of the Government’s proposals to reform Judicial Review.
It is fashionable at the moment to speak about ‘evidence-based’ policy. The concept has been imported from the sciences by advocates such as Dr Ben Goldacre. In short, policies should be based on empirical evidence, statistics and perhaps even randomised trials. Very sensible. So sensible, you would hope that Government has been doing it anyway.
Why do judges disagree and publish their disagreements when cases get decided? After all, the Cabinet does not do so (openly at least), and our FTSE-100 companies do not generally do so, when their executives propose a merger or launch a new product. Surely, judicial dissent is a recipe for diminishing the authority of the majority answer, and an invitation to self-indulgence on the part of the minority to re-fight lost and irrelevant battles.
Lord Kerr has given a very persuasive answer to both concerns in the Birkenhead lecture on 8 October 2012. But it is worth thinking about the alternative way of doing things, before making up your mind on whether the current way is the best way.
The Lord Chief Justice has lamented the ease with which new laws can be passed without proper scrutiny, comparing new powers to those which were imposed by England’s worst tyrant.
Lord Judge, who is the Lord Chief Justice and head of the judiciary, was speaking at the annual Lord Mayor’s dinner for the judiciary; his speech can be read here.
The thrust of the judge’s speech was his concern at the proliferation of what he called “Henry VIII” clauses, the proliferation of which had “astonished” him. Henry VIII’s 1539 Statute of Proclamations allowed the King’s proclamations to have the same force as Acts of Parliament. Lord Judge compared this to a series of recent Acts which have given the Government licence to enact law without the scrutiny of Parliament.
Gaunt v OFCOM  EWHC 1756 (QB) (13 July 2010) – Read judgment
The High Court has ruled that OFCOM did not breach a DJ’s freedom of expression rights by finding that he contravened the Broadcasting Code after calling a guest a “Nazi” during an interview on talkSPORT. The decision by the regulator led to the DJ’s sacking.
Jon Gaunt applied for judicial review of the decision by OFCOM that he had breached rules 2.1 and 2.3 of the Broadcasting Code. Liberty supported his claim. He argued that OFCOM’s decision amounted to a disproportionate interference with his freedom of expression and an infringement of his rights under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
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