Government scraps plans to make judicial reviews harder for charities

But the Ministry of Justice response to a consultation says there will still be tougher financial restrictions for organisations that wish to appeal

Ministry of Justice
Ministry of Justice
The government has abandoned plans to introduce a tougher test for which organisations, including charities, can bring judicial review proceedings. 

The Ministry of Justice last year ran a consultation that proposed introducing tougher restrictions on bringing judicial review proceedings, which was criticised at the time as a "full-frontal attack" on charity campaigning.

But the government’s response to the consultation, published yesterday, says that it has abandoned plans for a stricter test for standing, which governs when third-party organisations such as charities can bring such proceedings. 

The local infrastructure body Navca welcomed the move, although Melanie Carter, a partner at the law firm Bates Wells Braithwaite, said charities would still be deterred by the tougher financial restrictions proposed.

"The government has climbed down on this significant aspect, which we are delighted about," said Carter, who said the legal sector had "lobbied hard" against this proposal.

"Over time the judges had relaxed the tests to allow such reviews because they see them as valuable, because there is a central role for such bodies to call government to account," she said.

But Carter said the government’s response outlined a tougher financial landscape for charities either wishing to appeal a judgment or intervene in an appeal.

According to the response, the government "considers that those who choose to become involved in litigation should have a more proportionate financial interest in the outcome, and this should extend to interveners".

Carter said: "Third sector bodies are going to be extremely wary of intervening and we will therefore lose the sector’s role in society." 

The government has also "supported a more restrictive approach" to cost protection, which allows a body appealing a review to ensure its costs cannot exceed a certain level.

Carter said she saw these proposals, alongside the lobbying act, as "part of a stifling of challenges by the third sector".

Neil Cleeveley, director of policy and research at Navca, said: "We are relieved to see that the government has abandoned plans to prevent charities taking judicial review cases on behalf of those they support.

"However, the consultation missed the point: judicial review is not red tape; it is a way of protecting people from bad or unfair decisions by public bodies. It is a fundamental part of our democracy."

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