The UK’s most senior judge urged ministers to approach its proposed reforms to curb the use of judicial review with ‘great care’. ‘Any proposals which limit or cut down or risk limiting or cutting down the rights of the citizen to come to court to complain about infringement of his or her rights by the state or any attempts to reduce the ability, to kerb excesses, of the executive through the courts have be to be looked at with great care,’ Lord Neuberger, president of the Supreme Court told journalists yesterday.
According to a Press Association report, Neuberger acknowledged that there might be abuses that need to be dealt with ‘but I do think that any proposals have to be looked at with very, very great care’. Earlier this year the judge said it was ‘entirely proper’ for judges to speak out over concerns about legal aid in a speech at the Institute for Government – as reported on LegalVoice HERE.
‘The most obvious topic on which the judiciary can properly contribute, and sometimes have a duty to contribute, is the rule of law. It is therefore entirely proper for the Judiciary to stress to the executive and parliament that it is fundamental to the rule of law that every citizen, perhaps above all the poor, the vulnerable, the disadvantaged, should be able to go to court to vindicate their rights or to defend themselves, whether to challenge excesses of executive power, to protect private rights, to be compensated for wrongs, to secure family rights, or to defend themselves if prosecuted.’
Speaking yesterday, Neuberger said that legal aid was what ensured that ‘the most underprivileged people in society, the people who need the protection of the law most in many ways get a proper hearing’. ‘[Rights], whether human rights or other rights, are valueless if they cannot be enforced in court. Reductions in legal aid therefore inevitably cause one concern,’ he said. Without legal help , people faced ‘two unpalatable choices’. ‘One is to put their hands up and not go to court, which is a fundamental denial of a right in any civilised society, and the other is to go to court, often at a disadvantage, because the other side, whether it is the state, whether it is their husband or wife or civil partner or whether it is their neighbour, may have legal representation,’ he said
Litigants in person often ‘feel angry and bewildered. Court proceedings are often unfriendly to someone who has not been to court.’
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