Is sex abuse inquiry one reason the government is trying to dismantle judicial review?


Fiona Woolf: Unsuitable to chair historic sex abuse inquiry? [Image: BBC.]

The BBC is reporting that a legal challenge has been launched against Fiona Woolf’s appointment as chair of an inquiry into historic child sex abuse.

The judicial review has been launched by a victim of exactly the kind of abuse Mrs Woolf will be investigating. She is the second chair appointed to this inquiry after Baroness Butler-Sloss was forced to step down due to fears over a conflict of interest affecting her suitability – and the second to face allegations that she should resign due to her connections, in this case with Leon Brittan, the former Home Secretary who apparently did nothing after a dossier containing allegations against more than 100 people was handed to him.

Will a Conservative-led government ever find someone to chair this inquiry who is free of any alleged connections to its subject matter?

Perhaps Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has found a way around this problem for them, since Mrs Woolf is being challenged by judicial review – and he has launched a bid to end the process.

According to, his attack is particularly insidious. Rather than try to stop it altogether and face an outcry, Grayling set in motion a plan to price it out of the reach of “anyone but the most reckless and wealthy”.

The article states: “Part four of the criminal justice and courts bill tries to dismantle judicial review through a four-pronged attack. First, it restricts the use of protective costs. Second, it exposes friends, relatives and associates of a claimant to financial costs. Third, it makes charities and NGOs who get involved in a case liable for costs. And fourth, it shields public bodies which have acted unlawfully from public scrutiny.

“Protective costs limit how much of the other side’s legal costs you have to pay if you undertake the case. Without it, the financial costs of pursuing judicial review become very daunting. The bill prevent judges granting protective cost orders until permission is granted, a stage which already requires lots of expensive legal work to get to. It’s not even a problem – only a handful of these orders are granted a year anyway.

“Prong two of the attack makes claimant’s friends, colleagues, family and associates – anyone who might be able to help them financially, basically – liable to the legal costs. The emotional impact of this is severe. Someone may be willing to risk their own wellbeing and livelihood for something they believe in, but it feels entirely different if you’re risking the livelihood of those around you.

“The measure against charities and NGOs is basically an attack on expert commentary. You can see why. Officials at the Ministry of Justice always seem averse to hearing from experts, because experts so rarely agree with them. As things stand, they can only contribute expert advice and guidance with the permission of the court. Making them liable to costs just freezes out people who know what they’re talking about from participating in the legal process.

“Finally, a no-difference threshold will mean authorities can escape legal challenges even when they’re plainly acting improperly.”

It is too late for this legislation to affect the Fiona Woolf judicial review; it has already been launched and current rules will apply to it. But a government that has been embarrassed by this and many others will clearly want to rid itself of such interference – especially as it is interference by poor people.

You need to fight for this.

A good start will be getting in touch with your MP, or with the lords who have tabled amendments against the Grayling measures – Lord Pannick, Lord Woolf, Lord Carlile, and Lord Beecham. It seems they have not yet had a chance to debate those amendments.

The Tories are trying to take away your rights – again.

Are you going to let them?

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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9 thoughts on “Is sex abuse inquiry one reason the government is trying to dismantle judicial review?

  1. Mr.Angry

    Dictatorship at it’s worst what the hell have we become, this government stops at nothing and can only get worse if we Joe public allow them to get away with it.

  2. Guy Ropes

    Mike, why is it that when discussing this matter I can find no serious blogger or commentator, yourself included, who will allude to the fact that Butler-Sloss is a self-confessed liar? She was required to apologise to the Lords a few years ago for wilfully making a statement in regards to a witness which she knew to be untrue. (For you and I probably perjury). I have seen her apology (from the Lords) and I believe it’s still available on youtube. If more widely known this would surely make Cameron’s appointment/defence of her worth less than it is already is and would, once again, show the Tories as being a very, very, nasty party whose concern for the weak and vulnerable is nigh on nil. No wonder he turned to someone else.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      If you can find the Hansard reference, it would certainly be useful.
      I wasn’t aware of this alleged incident and it’s probable that nobody else was either.

      1. Guy Ropes

        Mike, go to youtube; enter “Lady Butler-Sloss in the House of Lords” in the ‘search’ panel; it turns up as the first video.

  3. Chris Kitcher

    This just demonstrates to me the extent to which the Westminster Village and the Tories in particular are out of touch with public sentiment. Surely there are qualified people outside of Westminster who are not tainted by association with the political class and more importantly who the public would trust to rise above the political antics currently being shown in this matter.

    Worryingly I feel that this once again exposes Camerons’ complete lack of judgement when it comes to what we know to be right but he doesn’t.

  4. loopeyange

    This simply must not be allowed to be pushed through. How are these laws getting passed so easily?
    There simply is NO justice in this Country anymore….unless of course you have money bags drooping from your ears

  5. Michele Witchy Eve

    >> “Will a Conservative-led government ever find someone to chair this inquiry who is free of any alleged connections to its subject matter?” <<

    Oddly enough this was the same question Andrew Neil asked of a govt minister (whose name now escapes me) on BBC's Daily Politics yesterday. He then went on to establish (via his questioning of said minister) that the criteria necessary did not need to include either a background in law or an in-depth or personal involvement in the subject of child sexual abuse. At which point he said the same as you did above. It was cringe-worthy to say the least watching the MP trying to figure out the least damaging thing to say – and still no answer to who they could to lead the enquiry who wasn't 'connected' to the tight circle that is Westminster.

Comments are closed.