Woolf warns Government over judicial review


Gavin Cordon
Saturday 15 December 2012 11:47 GMT

Government plans to curb the right to judicial review risk endangering a vital legal safeguard, a former lord chief justice warned today.

David Cameron argued last month that reform of the judicial review system in England and Wales is essential to prevent "spurious" legal challenges holding up important projects which benefit communities and business.

Ministers want to cut the time limit in which a claim for judicial review can be lodged from three months to six weeks.

However Lord Woolf accused the Ministry of Justice of showing a "remarkable lack of concern for the precision of the facts" in putting forward its proposals for change.

"In our system, without its written constitution embedded in our law so it can't be changed, judicial review is critical," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

"This marks a departure. If we want to change procedures, normally we do that through our very experienced Civil Procedure Rules Committee backed up by the Civil Justice Council which are both bodies who have got expertise in these matters which the Ministry of Justice have not got.

"They would be very well not to get involved in this area (and) leave it to the specialist committees."

He said legislation was already going through Parliament to remove immigration cases - which account for around 70 per cent of the total and have been the main growth area - from the judicial review system and transfer them to a specialist tribunal.

However Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said that action was still needed to prevent abuses of the system which were proving costly to both business and government.

"What I want to do is to create some hurdles which say to people that this is not a procedure which you can use in a trivial way. The truth is that it is often used in a trivial way," he told the Today programme.

"I have certainly experienced in my government role judicial review being used for PR purposes. You can launch a case against government - it creates a nice story.

"You are five times more likely to be refused leave for a judicial review because your case is spurious than you are to have it granted. That is overwhelmingly evidence that this is a process that is not being used for the purpose it was intended."


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