MPs to consider bill amendments to protect charities from judicial review costs

Labour's Andy Slaughter (pictured), co-author of the amendments, says the legislation would harm the ability of charities to intervene in legal proceedings

Andy Slaughter MP
Andy Slaughter MP

MPs will this week discuss amendments to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill designed to prevent charities from facing a significant financial burden if they seek to intervene in judicial review cases.

The Labour shadow justice ministers Andy Slaughter and Dan Jarvis have put forward about 50 amendments to the bill, which are due to be discussed by MPs at committee stage either today or on Thursday.

If the bill became law as it stands, an organisation, such as a charity, or an individual applied to intervene in judicial review proceedings, "the court must order the intervener to pay any costs specified in the application that the court considers have been incurred by that party as a result of the intervener’s involvement in the proceedings".

The amendments broadly seek to give the courts the discretion to not impose the burden of costs onto intervening organisations.

Slaughter warned that the legislation would have a "chilling effect" on the ability of charities to take part in such proceedings, because of the significant financial burden they could face.

The bill would limit the rights of the citizen against the state, he said, "and launches another unjustified attack on the third sector".

He said his amendments would seek to "ensure that the integrity of judicial review is protected. It is incredible that the government is pressing on with these changes despite widespread condemnation from legal experts, charities and other campaigning bodies that regularly use their expertise to assist their members."

Chris Grayling, the justice secretary, told the House of Commons during the second reading of the bill in February that the government’s reform to judicial review would "tackle lengthy delays in the system that put an undue burden on the taxpayer, act as a brake on dynamism and hold back economic growth. The reforms, which have been extensively consulted on, will rebalance the financial elements in judicial review cases so that anyone making a claim shares a fair level of financial risk.

"That will encourage those who bring claims to consider the merits of their case before doing so, and ensure that public resources are focused only on well-founded claims."

The government had previously announced that it would abandon plans to introduce tougher restrictions on judicial review proceedings.

The plans were previously criticised by Melanie Carter, head of the public and regulatory law team at the law firm Bates Wells Braithwaite, as a "full-frontal attack" on charity campaigning.

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