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Failing Grayling
Judicial Review, Issue 1382
chris grayling 2.jpg
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling was caught misleading parliament
JUSTICE secretary Chris Grayling’s plan to dismantle judicial review – a vital check on government abuse and illegality – has been thrown into disarray by his own bungling.

He has been caught misleading parliament over his plan to restrict the system that enables members of the public to obtain court scrutiny where they believe the government or other public authority may have ignored, abused or acted above the law. Grayling himself has fallen foul of judicial review repeatedly: judges have declared his actions unlawful three times this year alone, most recently with his ban on sending books to prisoners. This month the court of appeal did the same, ruling legal aid restrictions on deportations unlawful.

Prohibitively expensive
Trying to reassure MPs that his reforms weren’t merely a ruse to evade embarrassing scrutiny, Grayling maintained that his proposed curbs in the Criminal Justice and Court Bill, which will make the cost of judicial review prohibitively expensive, were designed to weed out frivolous cases, not remove judicial powers. He told the Commons the legislation would allow judges to intervene “in exceptional circumstances”, so there was no need for concern.

In fact there is no “exceptional circumstances clause” in the legislation at all, so MPs who voted with the government to reject a series of Lords amendments (which would have restored judicial discretion) had been duped. Grayling was forced to admit in a letter to MP Geoffrey Cox, one of only two Tories who voted against the government, that he had “inadvertently” got it wrong. Peers were so outraged at the spectacle of a minister “inadvertently” telling a porky they pinged the matter back to the Commons to enable MPs to reconsider.

Wrongly denied
*Earlier this month the high court heard another case against Grayling, this one concerning claims that his legal aid cuts have led to two out of five victims of domestic violence being wrongly denied legal representation in the family courts.

Even though these individuals meet the financial criteria for legal help, lawyers argued that the need to produce sufficient “evidence” of abuse was unrealistic. The consequences for women and children seeking to protect themselves could be disastrous. Under the regime Grayling would like to bring in, however, the case might never have got past the first hurdle – contradicting his claim that his judicial review changes would only weed out trivial matters.

More top stories in the latest issue:

NO-SKY THINKING
Vince Cable bemoans skimping on investment in air traffic control, in which government is the largest shareholder.

TWO BRAINS, MANY JOBS
Since leaving his job as universities minister, David Willett’s has collected lots of lucrative roles.

HOUSING NEWS
Evidence that the pro-development Treasury is defeating the shire Nimbys and their champion Eric Pickles.

TALLY HO
Police are still investigating allegations that postal vote observers in the Scottish referendum were “taking tallies” of votes.

BRUSSELS SPROUTS
Anti-money-laundering directive may include a Catch-22 “legitimate public interest” clause to thwart investigators.

PLUS: Gavel Basher on lawyers’ efforts to defeat the lord chancellor’s heroism bill.


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Next issue on sale:
2nd January 2015.
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Next issue on sale: 2nd January 2015.

Private Eye Issue 1381
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