Judicial review reforms affecting charities are agreed by parliament

The Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, which might affect the ability of campaigning groups to challenge decisions by public bodies, will become law

Royal Courts of Justice
Royal Courts of Justice

Government reforms to judicial review, which are likely to reduce the ability of charities and campaigning groups to challenge decisions by public bodies, have been agreed by parliament and are due to become law.

The Criminal Justice and Courts Bill was introduced to parliament in February last year and contains provisions about the judicial review process, in which courts consider challenges brought against decisions made by public bodies.

Although not as restrictive as initially proposed, the bill has attracted criticism from both the third sector and the legal sector.

Lisa Nandy, the shadow minister for civil society, has said a Labour government would reverse the changes.

The bill says a decision that was allegedly taken improperly, but would have been likely to have had the same outcome if taken properly, can be allowed into the courts only if there is exceptional public interest.

It says that courts will be oblgied to consider the financial resources available to someone bringing a judicial review when awarding costs – subject to an as yet undefined threshold – and a charity intervening in a judicial review as a third party might have to pay costs to other parties arising from their intervention, if certain conditions are met.

Last week, Chris Grayling, the justice secretary and Lord Chancellor, told the House of Commons that judicial review was being "overtly used by campaign groups and third parties to seek to disrupt the process of government".

His comments were criticised yesterday in the Lords by Lord Pannick, a crossbench peer, who said: "Such comments make no sensible contribution to the debate. They demean the office of Lord Chancellor because they disrespect and undermine the vital role of judicial review in ensuring that the business of government is conducted lawfully."

The parliamentary process of "ping pong", in which amendments are passed between the two chambers of parliament, has now concluded the bill’s passage through parliament. The bill home page on Parliament.uk says: "Outstanding issues on the bill were resolved on 21 January 2015. A date for royal assent has yet to be set. This is the final stage of the bill’s passage through parliament when the bill becomes an act."

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