Criminal Justice and Courts Bill — Second Reading (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:07 pm on 30th June 2014.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Faulks Lord Faulks The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice 9:07 pm, 30th June 2014

They will be part of the consultation in the course of amendment but not specifically subject to parliamentary approval as such. I say that subject to correction, but I think that that is the position. My noble friend Lady Berridge asked about reporting restrictions and made an important point about the youth court. I can confirm that the Government are looking carefully at that particular issue.

The question of juror research was raised by noble Lord, Lord Blair, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood. I have some sympathy with the point about the need for greater understanding of what is or is not permitted in terms of research into juries. I cannot commit the resources of the Ministry of Justice to provide the information being sought, but I will take this back and try to provide some form of clarity. Professor Cheryl Thomas appears to encounter no difficulty in analysing the information and I think the contrary argument is that any other information tends to be anecdotal. It does seem to me that simply to accept that jury trial is the right answer without proper examination is not a proper approach to this matter. I also note the comments made by the noble and learned Lord about Lord Roskill’s commission all those years ago, and I take his point about the reduction in costs. Sooner or later, viscerally attached though we are in this country to trial by jury, that does not obviate the need to examine and re-examine whether it is appropriate in all circumstances. As he quite rightly said, the Defamation Act 2013 is a recent example of where trial by jury is no longer to be available.

Perhaps I may conclude with some comments on Part 4. To say that this part was not entirely welcomed would be something of an understatement. Noble Lords have made some remarkable speeches in the course of the debate and it is absolutely clear that the relevant clauses will be subject to the degree of scrutiny that one would expect on a series of provisions of this sort. I hope that noble Lords will forgive me if I keep my remarks short and respond in detail to the many amendments that I expect to receive on these matters in due course.

It was suggested that there had not been much growth in judicial review as most of them were either immigration or asylum judicial reviews. I would like to set out to the House that, as is shown in the published national statistics, the number of civil judicial reviews, not including immigration and asylum claims, increased by 27% between 2000 and 2013, albeit that we accept that such claims continue to represent a small proportion of the total number of claims. However, the Government continue to believe that there are fundamental issues with how judicial reviews are brought that require proportionate reform. Although I know there was little support for these changes, I think it was accepted that from time to time this area of law can need examination, re-examination and amendment. I said in opening and I repeat now that it is no part of the Government's approach to this that judicial review is not a vital part of the checks on administrative action, whether on central or local government or other arms of the state. We are concerned by these various provisions to restrict the costs of obtaining judicial review and to ensure that interveners’ participation in reviews is at least more circumscribed than it is at the moment. I accept that interveners can provide valuable assistance in judicial reviews having—I declare an interest—taken part by representing one of the parties and on more than one occasion acting for an intervener. However, there has been a proliferation of interventions. If one looks at reported cases now, almost any case at Appeal Court level appears to attract a considerable level of intervention and some of it is duplicated. It often takes the form of very lengthy skeleton arguments and many volumes of authorities. Although judges do their best to make economic use of the available material, all parties involved in the case are thereby put to the expense of having to deal with the magnitude of the contributions made by interveners.

While I do not reject the proposition that interveners can add value, we must look at the cost consequences of those who use judicial review as a form of campaign. That word was used during the course of the debate by the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell of Surbiton. Campaigning organisations have an enormous value, but it should not be thought that judicial review is simply a method of campaigning. Judicial review is concerned with unlawful activity: it is not just another way of expressing the various objectives of a campaign.