Government takes aim at JR process

The Government still has the misuse of judicial reviews firmly in its sights, and it looks like they are prepared to shoot down anyone who attempts to misuse the system or simply use it as a public relations tool.

After a major overhaul of the system which begin in 2012, and concluded two years later, the government clearly wanted to publically demonstrate their unhappiness at the number of Judicial Review cases that had been lodged to block planning applications.

Ministers went on the record to suggest many Judicial Reviews were brought about simply for malicious or publicity based reasons, and the system could not cope with this type of misuse.Anyone with a reasonable knowledge of public relations knows how even the threat of a Judicial Review or JR as it is shortened to, can create a large amount of publicity and awareness, along with a general feeling of nervousness amongst officers and local politicians. http://www.preciseadvice.co.uk/public_relations/

In fact ministers went on to suggest that only 1 in 6 of Judicial Review applications were suitable to proceed.

The statistics underline the problem since 1980, the number of Judicial Review applications have risen from 160 to over 12,000 per annum. https://uk.practicallaw.thomsonreuters.com/1-385-1704 transitionType=Default&contextData=(sc.Default)&firstPage=true&comp=pluk&bhcp=1

Clearly the publicity attached to a Judicial Review, was serving certain purposes and in the 1990s the extreme competition between the major food store operators and their associated developers made Judicial Review applications a common practice. Adding an element of fear and trepidation to the workload of many planning officers working on food retail cases.

The main purpose of the 2014 legislation was to reduce the time limit for bringing a claim from 3 months to 6 weeks, which would significantly speed up the process of agreeing a section 106, and move the application to the next stage with more certainty.

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A new oral hearing fee was also included and the review gave powers to strike off applications, with no merit or little chance of success.

Many thought that this would be the total extent of the changes, but new proposals have brought Judicial Review applications back into the spotlight.

This time environmental groups are feeling the whiplash of earlier misdemeanors, as the Government is looking at changes to the cost protection orders.

Cost protection orders protected applicants from large legal costs. By removing the cap the Ministry of Justice will in essence expose campaign groups to costs, which could run in to many hundreds of thousands of pounds, and will deter them from bringing cases in the first place?

The news has been greeted with an arctic cold front by environmental groups including Friends of the Earth and the RSPB, who have launched a Judicial Review application to look at the proposals, and their effects, the review is expected to be undertaken in the next six months.

Environmental organisations say they will be potentially liable to significant costs, if the original method of cost capping is taken away.

Under the old rules, costs for anyone losing an environmental challenge were capped at £5000 for individuals and for £10,000 in all other cases.

Under the new rules claimants will have to present financial information in advance and show their ability to pay costs should it be required before embarking on a challenge.

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