Legal Business Blogs

‘Banging his head against the wall’: Justice secretary makes limited concessions as Commons passes judicial review reforms

The government has amended the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill to reintroduce further discretion in holding judicial reviews, helping the bill to pass the House of Commons last night (13 January) and returning it to the Lords for a third time.

The bill has been defeated twice by peers who have been uncomfortable with restrictions placed on when a judicial review could be held and clauses requiring financial disclosure. When the bill was defeated for the first time, Lord Woolf described it as a ‘worrying piece of legislation’ and that ‘it is dangerous to go down the line of telling the judges what they have got to do’.

In response to the House of Lords disagreements, Lord Chancellor and justice secretary Chris Grayling has now made concessions allowing courts to disregard restrictions if there is ‘exceptional public interest’ and allowing them to set the levels at which financial support must be disclosed, although during the debate the justice secretary suggested this as £1,500.

Former attorney general Dominic Grieve, however, believed the concessions did not go far enough saying he remained ‘unpersuaded that this amendment will not excessively fetter judicial discretion’ while former solicitor general Sir Edward Garnier urged the justice secretary to look at the wider picture and stop ‘banging his head against the wall’. The government carried the day with 300 members voting in favour against 232.

The reforms have received criticism from a wide section of the legal community with the Bar Council, Law Society and the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx), last year, publishing a combined statement urging peers to reject the restrictions, claiming it was ‘an attack on judicial review’.