Evidence of things not seen

5946829399_e633991652_oThis week, Big Brother Watch submitted our response to the consultation on Judicial Review. In conclusion, we say:

“An overwhelming number of points in the consultation document are anecdotal and unsubstantiated; indeed many are contradicted by official figures. This consultation is absolutely not a document that should be relied upon when embarking on reform of one of our most fundamental legal rights.”

Along with many other organisations, we’ve highlighted the startling lack of evidence in the Ministry of Justice’s consultation document. Anecdotes and unsubstantiated claims are casually deployed to justify reducing the scope of when judicial review applications can be made, but the underlying figures overwhelmingly undermine the department’s claims.

For example, the consultation claims: We have seen a huge surge in Judicial Review cases in recent years. The system is becoming mired in large numbers of applications, many of which are weak or ill-founded, and they are taking up large amounts of judicial time, costing the court system money and can be hugely frustrating for the bodies involved in them.”

No figures are presented relating to time or cost are included anywhere in the consultation. As for the increase in number, we are told by the MoJ that, “There has been a significant growth in the use of JR to challenge the decisions of public bodies. In 1974, there were 160 applications for JR, by 1998 this had risen to over 4,500, and by 2011 had reached over 11,000.”

If not deliberately intended to mislead, this statement is woefully amateur in its analysis.

  1. Until 1983 an entirely different legal system existed for challenging the decisions of public authorities.
  2. Since the mid 1990s the volume of non-immigration/asylum JRs has remained fairly stable at just over the 2,000 per annum mark
  3. The number of asylum and immigration cases accounts for the overwhelming majority of the increase.

You can see the data here.

Simply, a specific problem in immigration and asylum cases is being used as a lever to reduce access to one of the most fundamental legal rights we have – to challenge public authorities that may act outside the law.

This must not be allowed to happen.