Our strategic objectives

To develop a high quality and pro-active voluntary sector for the benefit of the
residents of the Dudley Borough by positively engaging partners in support of
voluntary activity

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As if it were not costly and difficult enough already, proposed changes to calling for a judicial review will significantly affect voluntary organisations’ right to challenge decisions by public bodies, it is claimed. See article below.

Added 12/1/14. This information updates s.64.1.1 in The Russell-Cooke Voluntary Sector Legal Handbook (VSLH3). 

Judicial review is the process by which decisions or actions of bodies exercising public functions — or the way in which a decision has been made — can be reviewed by the courts. A judicial review challenge can be made if the public body misused its powers, acted irrationally (for example, took into account irrelevant factors in making the decision), or did not observe procedural rules and act fairly. An example is a challenge to a local authority's decision to summarily cut grants to community organisations, with no consultation or even notice period. Judicial review cannot in itself change the content of a decision, but the court can set aside (quash) the decision, and can require the public body to go through the decision making process again. 

At present, any person (individual or corporate body) with "sufficient interest" in a decision can apply for judicial review, even if they do not have a direct interest. Clearly an organisation whose grant is summarily cut can apply for judicial review, but so also can the local council for voluntary service or a coalition of organisations whose grants have not been cut, but which receive grants and could thus be affected by the grant-making process. A person with sufficient interest is said to havestanding to bring the review. 

 

 

The time limit for bringing a judicial review is short — three months from the date of the decision which is being challenged — but in July 2013 this limit was reduced to six weeks for some planning and procurement decisions, and other changes were made to judicial review procedures. 

From 6 September to 1 November 2013 the government consulted on further changes to judicial review, including funding changes "to encourage claimants and their legal representatives to consider more carefully the merits of bringing a judicial review and the way they handle proceedings". This includes a proposed restriction on the availability of legal aid, and a number of other financial disincentives for bringing a review. Another proposal would make it easier for courts to dismiss cases which relate only to procedural issues, where correcting the procedural irregularity would not make any difference to the outcome. 

As well as the financial and procedural proposals, the consultation asked whether judicial review should continue to be able to be used in cases involving the public sector equality duty [see Public sector equality duties on the Equality & human rights page of this website]. 

It also, very significantly, asked whether standing to bring a judicial review should be limited only to persons with a direct and tangible interest in the decision. The consultation documents made clear that this was intended to "exclude persons who had only a political or theoretical interest, such as campaigning groups". It would not, however, apply to organisations which campaign for environmental protection, who have standing under EU law even if they are not directly affected. 

On the day the consultation was launched, justice secretary Chris Grayling made his feelings clear in the Daily Mail, where he wrote that professional campaigners articulating a left-wing vision are taking over charities, and judicial review is being used as a promotional tool by countless left-wing campaigners. 

The consultation took place at the height of activity on the threats posed by the lobbying bill, so received much less attention from the voluntary sector than it would ordinarily have done. Despite this, a number of charities and legal experts responded to the consultation, emphasising the impact if charities and other organisations are no longer able to bring judicial review claims on behalf of their beneficiaries or in relation to matters of public interest. 

The consultation documents are on the Ministry of Justice website via tinyurl.com/lo4dqkc. The Public Law Project, a charity which aims to improve access to public law remedies for people whose access to justice is limited by poverty or other disadvantage, has a detailed briefing on the proposed changes at tinyurl.com/krdc77u

 

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if you would like more information about Dudley CVS or would like to use one of the services we offer, please contact our office :
Telephone : 01384 573381 Visit our office at : 7 Albion Street, Brierley Hill, Dudley, West Midlands DY5 3EE

Registered charity No. 517766 incorporated under the 1995 Companies Act No 1998105 DVCS 2010