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Judicial Review Process

Thursday December 20th, 2012

David Hansom from Veale Wasbrough Vizards takes a look the recent Consultation Paper on proposals for the reform of the Judicial Review process, published this month by the Ministry of Justice (MOJ)…

The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) published a Consultation Paper on 13 December containing its proposals for reform of the Judicial Review process. It argues for the reduction in “weak or ill-conceived cases” by various measures. These proposals have been put forward in response to concern over the direction the process has taken in the last ten years. The thinking is that it has “developed far beyond the original intentions” of the remedy. Indeed, 2011 saw 11,200 Judicial Review applications – in stark contrast to the 160 in 1974.

David Hansom

David Hansom

The MOJ has requested views on its proposals, some of which would directly impact on public authorities and procurement cases. The current time-frame for appealing procurement case decisions is 30 days under the Public Contracts Regulations 2006 (“the Regulations”), but a Judicial Review claim can be brought within three months of the decision. The Government would like to make these two time limits consistent and proposes that the deadline for Judicial Review proceedings based on decisions within the ambit of the Regulations also be 30 days.

A similar measure for planning cases has been put forward, with the Government suggesting a limit of six weeks from the decision, which reflects the statutory provisions for an appeal. Both these time limits seem more manageable and mean that the delay and uncertainty regularly suffered by public bodies or developers could be reduced.

However, the Government has reiterated that the Courts do still have discretion to consider cases brought after the deadlines have passed if it is just and equitable to do so. This is based on various factors such as the reason and length of the delay, and means that there is some room for flexibility where justifiable.

The issue of the cost of Judicial Reviews is also addressed in the proposals. The MOJ plans to introduce a fee of £215 (potentially increasing to £235) for oral renewal hearings (which are currently free), in the hope that this will not only cover the cost of the hearings but will also help to deter claimants from bringing weak cases.

Finally, the MOJ has also sought views on removing the right to an oral renewal when a judge refuses permission where there has been a prior judicial process or where the claim was judged to be totally without merit. This would mean that appeals to the Court of Appeal would be on the papers, saving time and money.

These proposals are open for consultation until 24 January 2013. The outcome will be awaited with great interest.

 

David Hansom

Online: www.vwv.co.uk

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