The case of Noel Conway v The Secretary of State for Justice has been in the headlines recently. In that case, Mr Conway, who suffers from terminal motor neurone disease was challenging the law on assisted dying, arguing that the Suicide Act 1961 was incompatible with the Human Rights Act 1998. Mr Conway was seeking a judicial review (“JR”) of the blanket ban on assisted dying as contained in the 1961 Act.
But what is JR? It is the process of challenging the legality of decisions made by local or central government. The courts have a supervisory role in ensuring that decision makers act lawfully. It is important to note that the JR process does not examine the merits of a decision but instead looks at its lawfulness (i.e. whether there has been an error of law in reaching the decision made).
JR requires permission from the court. Applicants need to apply for permission within three months of the decision being made (except for planning cases which must be within six weeks). The time limits are absolute and strictly applied and to proceed you have to demonstrate that you have an arguable case. The court will reject cases where it cannot see any arguable error of law.
If a claim for JR is successful then usually the original decision is “quashed”. This typically results in the decision process having to be followed again. What it does not mean is that a different decision must be reached. It is possible, for example, that exactly same decision could be reached all over again.
Previously, bringing a claim for JR was not only costly but also a very complicated process. In an effort to simplify the procedure and to reduce costs new guidelines on bringing JR have been issued. This guidance aims to make it easier for parties to bring JR claims and for the court to deal with such cases quickly and proportionately in relation to costs.
The guidance draws together all of the relevant statutory provisions, rules of procedure, and other procedural aspects of judicial review into one document. No new law has been enacted but parties pursuing a claim for JR will now be expected to act in accordance with it.
The guide provides assistance on starting a claim, applying for permission for JR, dealing with hearings, the remedies available, specific practice points, how to end a claim, costs and the appeals process. In short, it provides a comprehensive guide on how to pursue a claim for JR. However, this area of the law is still a minefield. So we are back to the question in the title – “Who Shot JR?”. You do not have to look too closely as the answer is in this article!
If you are involved in any claim for JR or require advice in connection with it then Blacks Solicitors can assist. Please contact Luke Patel on 0113 227 9316 or email him at “LPatel@LawBlacks.com”.