JUSTICE has briefed on the Judicial Review and Courts Bill, ahead of the Bill’s second reading in the House of Commons. JUSTICE has several serious concerns with the impact of this wide-ranging Bill on access to justice and the rule of law, and has briefed on the judicial review, criminal procedure, online procedure rules and Coroner Service provisions.
Judicial review: In respect of the introduction of new judicial review remedies, the Bill risks undermining individuals’ ability to hold the government to account. JUSTICE opposes the introduction of prospective-only remedies and considers that the presumption that remedies should be suspended or made prospective-only should be removed from the Bill. The provisions could also mean that individuals are found guilty of offences made under unlawful regulations or are unable to be compensated for the impacts of unlawful state action – safeguards must be introduced to prevent this occurring.
The Bill also would severely restrict judicial review of refusals by the Upper Tribunal of permission to appeal a decision of a lower tribunal (Cart judicial reviews). This type of judicial review is a crucial safeguard against errors in the Tribunal system in decisions of significant importance for the people concerned, and which often involve the most fundamental rights. Removing Cart judicial reviews is unnecessary and detrimental to the Tribunal system and individuals’ rights.
Criminal procedure: Whilst JUSTICE welcomes the use of technology where appropriate, safeguards are required to ensure that the introduction of automatic online conviction and standard statutory penalty and a new pre-trial allocation procedure do not increase digital exclusion and further embed inequalities for vulnerable and marginalised groups. We are concerned that there has been no proper assessment of the impact of the new processes on such groups.
Online procedure rules: We are supportive of the introduction of online procedure rules, however their implementation must be done in a way that ensures access to justice for all, including those who may find it difficult to access and engage with online justice.
Coroner Service: Certain of the reforms to the Coroner Service do not sufficiently address the needs of often unrepresented bereaved families and, without sufficient safeguards, risk undermining the inquest process.
The Bill also misses the opportunity to improve the inquest system, at a time when there is an increasing backlog of cases in the coroners’ courts, and fails to introduce much-needed automatic, non-means tested, publicly funded legal representation for bereaved families at inquests.
Read our full briefings on Part 1 (judicial review) here, and on Part 2 (criminal procedure, online procedure rules and the Coroner Service) here.