According to the Law Society and other legal organizations, restricting the right to judicial review will undermine democracy and harm the most vulnerable.
Their submissions to a government-appointed panel have been released amid growing concerns that ministers are trying to limit future challenges to their policies following the government’s defeats in the Supreme Court over Article 50 Brexit and extension cases.
The panel of experts appointed by the Ministry of Justice is chaired by Lord Faulks QC, former Minister of Justice. The Independent Administrative Law Review was commissioned to examine the need for possible judicial review reforms.
Faulks said he will consider “the need to balance the right of citizens to challenge the government in court and the right of the elected government to govern.”
In its brief, the Law Society of England and Wales said applications for judicial review were an essential part of democracy that allowed anyone affected by the decisions of public bodies to challenge them in court.
David Greene, President of the Law Society, said: “Judicial review allows ordinary people to ask an independent judge to decide whether a public body has acted lawfully or not.
“There is a power imbalance between individuals and the state, which judicial review addresses – it must be effective and accessible to all. The availability of this test leads to good governance. It also builds trust in state institutions and public decision-making.
Advocates for Animals, the UK’s only law firm specializing in animal welfare, presented evidence from a coalition of 50 animal rights groups, including Compassion in World Farming, urging judicial review to not be cut short.
Edie Bowles, a lawyer at Advocates for Animals, which she co-founded, said: ‘A restriction on judicial review would be a seriously retrograde and unnecessary step.
“With animal protection, judicial review is the only way to ensure that practices are legally regulated and that animals are given the protection Parliament wants.”
The Administrative Law Bar Association, which represents barristers practicing public law, said in its 58-page brief: “It has hitherto always been left to the courts, as guardians of the standards of legality to which this constitutional role is entrusted, develop and apply the principles of judicial review within the framework of the common law.
“Any proposal to codify, limit or otherwise alter the scope of judicial review by statute inevitably enters deep constitutional waters.”
The Public Law Project said: “Reform would represent an important constitutional step, not one that should be taken in the absence of a thorough process and the right evidence base… The limits that have been imposed on the panel are such that it is difficult to see how it can provide a solid basis for reform.