Tag Archive | "Mr Justice Burnett"

Judicial reviews

In his clearest rationalisation so far of why judicial review cases should be limited, Chris Grayling accused pressure groups of exploiting costly legal procedures to delay legislation, planning permissions and deportation decisions. “We have seen [judicial review] being used as a tactical tool rather than a vehicle for an individual to right a wrong,” Grayling told the House of Lords constitutional committee.

Another reason could be that Grayling is making a habit of losing judicial reviews, with two rebuffs in as many weeks.

The first came with a challenge on the consultation stage of the legal aid cuts. The case had been brought by the LCCSA and the CLSA, which said the consultation was unlawful. In an extraordinary criticism of a Cabinet minister, Jason Coppel QC, for the claimants, told the High Court that the challenge was not merely against the office of the lord chancellor but the present incumbent. He said it was ‘particularly striking’ that Grayling had become ‘personally involved’ in the process and had created much of the ‘unfairness’ himself. He said the Ministry of Justice’s consultation on the reforms amounted to a ‘caricature of fairness’, and an ‘exercise in suppressing information’ and ‘empty assurances’.

Mr Justice Burnett granted permission to apply for judicial review. He said “The broad indications given in the consultation paper of the considerations which would determine the outcome did not, in my judgment, enable consultees meaningfully to respond. Something clearly did go wrong. The failure was so unfair as to result in illegality.”

LCCSA president Nicola Hill said: “This is a great day for justice. It shows that no one, not even the justice secretary and lord chancellor, Mr Grayling, is above the rule of law.” Bill Waddington, chairman of the CLSA, said that it was “a damning indictment of the lord chancellor.”

Then a court judge found another consultation exercise unfair, this time to mesothelioma victims, in MoJ’s second judicial review defeat in weeks. The case revolved around restrictions that the MoJ tried to impose, under Laspo 2012, on claimants diagnosed with the asbestos-related condition mesothelioma. There was supposed to be a public consultation assessing the impact on mesothelioma patients before the provision was extended to cover their specific cases.

Mr Justice William Davis declared that the exercise carried out by the MoJ last year was inadequate. “The issue is whether [the justice secretary] conducted a proper review of the likely effect of the Laspo reforms on mesothelioma claims. I conclude that he did not. No reasonable lord chancellor faced with the duty imposed on him by…the act would have considered that the exercise in fact carried out fulfilled that duty”, the judge said.

Nicola Hill said: “Yet again Chris Grayling breaks the rules. Yet again he’s ticked off by one of the country’s highest courts. In short he’s been held to account by a process, judicial review, which he’s seeking to restrict.”

At the same time Grayling, who is the first non-lawyer to hold the post of lord chancellor for 440 years, appeared before the House of Lords constitution committee, which is holding an inquiry into the role of lord chancellor. He was grilled for more than an hour on the constitutional role and whether his position as justice secretary caused a conflict in his commitment to the rule of law. He told committee members that it was an advantage for a non-lawyer to be lord chancellor, particularly at a time when legal aid cuts have to be made.

In response to Grayling’s evidence, Bar Council chair Nicholas Lavender said the lord chancellor should be a ‘champion’ of the justice system as well as guardian of the constitution. “He is entrusted with lead responsibility in government to maintain the delicate balance between, on the one hand, upholding the rule of law and protecting the independence of the judiciary and, on the other hand, respecting the interests of the executive.

“Legal expertise is essential to fulfil such a unique role” he said. “The lord chancellor should be a very senior lawyer.”

Posted in Criminal Justice, Legal AidComments (0)

Government consultation process ruled ‘so unfair as to result in illegality’

Mr Justice Burnett was as good as his word. At the end of the judicial review hearing he said he hoped to have judgment ready ‘as soon as possible’ and ‘all being well’ by the end of the month. Last Friday saw his judgement.

And what a judgement. Referring to two economic reports, one from Otterburn Consulting and the other from accountants KPMG, he said: “In the context, in particular, of a decision which would so profoundly affect the way in which the market in criminal legal aid operates, indeed pose a threat to the continued existence of many practices, in my judgment it was indeed unfair to refuse to allow those engaged in the consultation process to comment upon the two reports. Read the full story

Posted in Criminal Justice, Legal AidComments (0)

Judicial review sought

A High Court challenge to the government’s controversial legal aid reforms was heard on 8 and 9 September. The judicial review is sought by the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association (CLSA) and the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association (LCCSA). The action is funded by contributions in excess of £100,000 from members and £45,000 from the Law Society.

The changes being introduced provide for cuts of 17.5% in criminal court fees and reduce the number of duty solicitor contracts for attending police stations and courts in England and Wales from 1,600 to 525. Read the full story

Posted in Criminal JusticeComments (0)

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