Public bodies, including central and local government, make countless decisions every year that directly affect the lives of individual people. Our administrative justice work focuses on fairness in the process for making these important decisions, the law that regulates public decision-making, and the ability to challenge public bodies who get it wrong (including before ombudsmen, tribunals, and courts).
JUSTICE has long been at the forefront of promoting a fair, accessible and efficient administrative justice system. Since The Citizen and Administration, published in 1961, was credited as the trigger for the introduction of the ombudsman system to the UK, we have been at the heart of discussion on the relationship between the individual and the state.
In 1988, after a decade’s work that led to Administrative Justice – Some Necessary Reforms (JUSTICE/All Souls), we were responsible for one of the only holistic reviews of the treatment of administrative justice in this country. That work continues today.
Our recent work includes briefings on the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, provisions of which seek to unduly restrict access to judicial review. In May 2017 JUSTICE launched a Working Party on Immigration and Asylum (determination reform).
‘Neither confirm nor deny’ (NCND) response
The NCND response is most often used by public authorities in the national security and law enforcement contexts to avoid revealing sensitive information. It may, for example, be used in response to requests for information on undercover operations or in relation to surveillance programmes. However, in some circumstances, NCND has been used by public authorities to avoid disclosing information that may reveal unlawful activity. For instance, the police repeatedly used NCND in response to allegations of undercover police officers maintaining long-term, intimate relationships with environmental activists.
JUSTICE will soon publish a short report arguing that although there are legitimate circumstances where the response can be invoked, it should not be applied in a blanket fashion. Overuse of NCND unduly limits a claimant’s ability to plead their case and threatens open justice.
JUSTICE’s work on NCND was supported by Oxford Pro Bono Publico (OPBP), an organisation based at the Oxford University Faculty of Law, who conducted comparative research on the use of NCND in various jurisdictions.