Judicial Review under attack?



Judicial Review is, to quote this BBC article, “the process by which ordinary people and organisations can apply to the courts to challenge the lawfulness of decisions made by public bodies, including government.” This is such a useful definition of a topic which many students find hard to grasp.

However, the right to Judicial Review is today under review – the government is to debate whether it should be limited or not. This is due in part to the growing number of cases of judicial review, especially since the Human Rights Act was passed in 1998.

Judicial review itself is problematic – Parliament, in the UK, is sovereign, i.e. the source of all power. Therefore, unlike in the US, Parliament can ignore any decision made by the judiciary. However, with a new Supreme Court formed in 2009, judges have been increasingly willing to criticise the government, and while this could be ignored by Parliament, it could be unwise to do so. It could be seen as undemocratic to do so, and would reduce the numbers of ways in which a decision can be effectively scrutinised by the electorate. Therefore, while the government could ignore the judiciary, it is unlikely too.

Instead, therefore, the answer seems to have come in restricting the right of judicial review, which is now over 15,000 cases a year. However this too could be seen as undemocratic as the right of judicial review is both an ancient one in the UK and one which is accepted as part of our democracy, especially of recent times. Indeed, there are few other ways in which the electorate can hold the government to account so effectively, and it could be argued that it is more effectively than Parliament.

However, with the growing number, and the fact that judiciary is unelected and unaccountable, there are reasonable arguments as to why it should be limited.

Both sides are explored in these two articles, and this will be important for the UK Constitution, the UK Judiciary and Pressure Groups (both articles are chock-full of PG examples!).