Reforms ‘in public interest’

THE LAW Commission has taken an important step towards strengthening the public interest element in the judicial review system, says a leading authority in the field.

Richard Gordon QC, the first barrister to take silk in public law, welcomes the commission’s proposed reforms which will give pressure groups the right to take on cases, lay down rules for the High Court to grant advisory declarations and give courts the power to award costs out of central funds where a case has been brought in the public interest.

Gordon says this trio of reforms reflects a move towards a system which works “truly in the public interest”.

The commission also proposes that certain Latin terms should be translated to make judicial review more user- friendly and the leave system should be put back on a more informal footing.

The report includes a detailed analysis of problems faced by the courts in coping with the burgeoning number of cases which are clogging up the system.

Mr Justice Brooke, commission chair, says judicial review has been “a victim of its own success” in terms of the number of people bringing cases.

One proposal calls for a right of appeal on a point of law to a tribunal in homelessness cases, which should clear a large number of actions out of the system.

Treasury Solicitor Gerald Hosker QC, on first impression, says: “I welcome the fact that the reforms recognise and preserve the unique character of judicial review.

“The new forms of relief in particular will merit close examination.”

* The Universities of Essex and Warwick are undertaking a major three-year research project into judicial review. The study will investigate for the first time why so few judicial reviews get to court for a final hearing.