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Remember Vox Political‘s article last week, warning that Chris Grayling was trying to price judicial review out of the reach of ordinary people, in order to stop us challenging insane Tory legislation?
Yesterday a group of Conservative and Liberal Democrat lords rebelled against the government and voted with Labour and crossbench peers to defeat the plan.
Here’s how the BBC reported the events [observations from Yr Obdt Srvt in bold]:
The government has been defeated three times in the House of Lords over plans to limit the ability of individuals and organisations to challenge public decisions in the courts.
Former judge Lord Woolf said recourse to the courts was a key “last resort”.
Former Conservative ministers Lord Howe and Lord Deben and senior Lib Dems Lord Steel and Baroness Williams were among those to vote against the government, as it lost three parliamentary votes on the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill.
The rebel amendments to the bill maintaining the right of judges to decide whether to grant a legal challenge were passed respectively by majorities of 66, 33 and 33.
MPs must now decide whether to reinstate the measures when the bill returns to the Commons.
The government argues there has been a proliferation in the number of judicial reviews in recent years, with frivolous challenges being used to hold up policies when there is little or no chance of success. [What “frivolous challenges”? We’ve had many high-profile challenges that were upheld by the courts, with several against the Department of Work and Pensions including one that led to a hurried and highly dubious new Act of Parliament to legalise previously-illegal behaviour by the Conservative-led government.]
But leading crossbencher Lord Pannick said judges already had the power to dismiss “hopeless and abusive cases” and judicial reviews were vital to hold government to account and to ensure the legality of their decision-making.
“The risk of a public hearing before independent judges encourages high standards of administration,” he said.
Lord Woolf, a former lord chief justice, said the legislation was “worrying”, suggesting it was “dangerous to go down the line of telling the judges what they have to do”.
And former lord chancellor Lord Irvine said the ability to challenge government decisions in court was “indispensable in a democracy”.
But for the government, Lord Faulks insisted ministers were not trying to “fetter or undermine” the process of judicial reviews or circumscribe the discretion of judges.
In cases where the government had clearly followed due process, he said its time was “better spent taking forward the reforms the country needs” rather [then] defending decisions in the courts. [But the entire point of the findings of the judicial reviews mentioned above was to stop the government bringing in changes that were not only unneeded but actually harmful to the country and the public good!]
“The measures represent a sensible and considered package which will improve the process of judicial review for those with a proper case put well and founded on flaws which would have made a difference to the outcome,” he said. [Does that make any sense at all? The measures represent an attempt to price judicial review beyond the reach of ordinary people.]
The amendments, he added, would rule out any reform of the current system.
Good. Conservative ‘reforms’ would set justice back into the Dark Ages.
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