Claimants were more likely to obtain tangible benefits from judicial review (JR) if they were backed by legal aid, a new report argued. The research, undertaken by Public Law Project in conjunction with the University of Essex, sought to investigate how and why JR is used, exploring its benefits and consequences. Its authors reckoned that the findings demonstrate that ‘widely held and influential assumptions about the costs and misuse of JR’ were ‘at best misleading and at worst false’. It also demonstrated the value of legal aid in JRs, whether successful or not, as legally aided cases also resulted in fewer negative consequences overall.
You can download the report (Value and Effects of Judicial Review: The Nature of Claims, their Outcomes and Consequences) here
Building on previous research, the report challenged the idea that JR was a ‘disproportionate and costly form of redress which was wasteful of public resources, provides little substantive benefit to successful claimants and is frequently hijacked by interest groups for political purposes’.
The perception that since the introduction of the Human Rights Act, JR has been increasingly used by ‘left-wing dominated’ pressure groups to ‘hold back our country’ touted by Chris Grayling MP as an excuse for curtailing the use of JR is undermined by the research, which found ‘no evidence of widespread abuse of the system’. Interest groups were claimants in only 3% of all JRs and only one third of public interest reviews received any legal aid funding.
It has been argued that JR makes it more difficult for public bodies to deliver public services efficiently. Central and local government were identified as defendants in almost three quarters (73%) of cases studied and whilst there was a cost to public bodies, even failed JRs led to improvements being made in the quality and provision of services by public bodies, as well as facilitating ‘more positive engagement between the parties.
Contrary to the view that JR rarely altered the decision of public bodies, the findings showed that public bodies often reached new decisions that were favourable to the claimant. Public bodies appeared to have ‘genuinely engaged with the issues raised’ and judicial review could therefore be considered to have a ‘significant impact’ on policy and procedure.
The authors argued that restricting legal aid for JR not only had ‘disproportionately adverse effect on those forced to resort to judicial review’, it did a disservice to us all.
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