Last edited 12 Nov 2020

Judicial review

A judicial review (JR) process allows people (or groups) to challenge the lawfulness of decisions or actions of the Executive. The Executive includes; ministers, local authorities, public bodies and those exercising public functions.

To instigate a judicial review a written application is made to the court. A fee is chargeable for the application. The court will then consider the merits of the case and decide whether it should be allowed to proceed.

Unless the application is found to be totally without merit, if the case is not allowed by the court to proceed, the applicant can ask for a 'second chance' hearing (an oral renewal) where they can present their case to a judge in person. A fee is chargeable for such a hearing. If the application is still refused, the applicant can appeal to the Court of Appeal.

If a judicial review is permitted, a hearing will be held, during which a judge will consider the evidence presented and reach a judgement. There is a fee for the hearing.

Generally, the losing side is expected to pay the legal bills of the winning side unless the judge makes an order otherwise. However, it is possible to apply for a Protective Costs Order (PCO) if the applicant cannot afford such costs, limiting liability to a specific level determined by the judge. Applicants will be responsible for their own costs, unless they are receiving legal aid.

Applications for judicial review increased from 4,300 in 2000 to 12,600 in 2012, but only 440 reached a final hearing. Cases can take more than a year to resolve, with planning cases taking, on average, 370 days to reach a completed final hearing in 2011.

As a consequence, a package of reforms is being introduced to speed up the judicial review process and to discourage meritless cases. This follows changes implemented in 2013, which amongst other things, halved the time limit for applying for Judicial Review of a planning decision from three months to six weeks.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said: ‘Judicial Review must continue its role as a crucial check on the powers that be – but we cannot allow meritless cases to be a brake on economic growth.”

Changes include:

  • The introduction of a planning court.
  • Allowing important appeals to be considered by the Supreme Court without first going to the Court of Appeal.
  • Changing the rules around legal bills to ensure all parties have an equal interest in minimising costs.
  • Stopping reviews based on technical flaws.
  • Targeting legal aid funding at cases which have merit.

Some of these changes will be included in the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, whilst others, (such as the introduction of the Planning Court) will be made through secondary legislation or amendments to court rules.

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