MPs debate latest criminal justice proposals and judicial review cuts

MPs will return from their week long February recess on Monday to the Second Reading debate on the new Criminal Justice and Courts Bill.

The Bill was introduced to the House of Commons on 5 February 2014. It would introduce a number of significant changes to criminal and civil justice system and to the substantive law.

JUSTICE raises a number of concerns about specific provisions in the Bill, including:

Criminal Justice

  • Powers of restraint to enforce ‘good order and discipline’ – using force against children – should not be available to staff in secure colleges;
  • Trial by justices on the papers must only be available where the courts are satisfied that the defendant has unequivocally waived their right to a public hearing, and be tried by a minimum of two justices or by a district judge;
  • Court charges in criminal cases must not be imposed unless it is just and reasonable to do so in the circumstances of each case, and upon a detailed impact assessment of the proposed charges and costs of enforcement.

Civil Appeals and Judicial Review

  • Changes to encourage courts to refuse to hear procedural claims – which allege that a public body has taken a decision unlawfully – could lead to significant delays, duplication and cost.
  • Proposed changes to the provision for protective costs orders and the introduction of a presumption that any public interest intervener will be liable for costs appear designed to deter individuals and organisations who pursue litigation in the public interest.
  • Proposals to expand the “leapfrog” appeal procedure to exclude the Court of Appeal in cases of “national importance” should not be permitted to deprive an individual of a right to appeal or to overwhelm the resources of the Supreme Court in practice.
  • JUSTICE regrets that the Government has determined to push ahead with the principal of its reforms: a major change in the availability of legal aid for judicial review. Ministers must explain why this new substantial change is to be in secondary legislation – without opportunity for full scrutiny – while the other parts of the reform package are in this Bill.

Read our Second Reading Briefing.