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Assumptions about cost and misuse of judicial review are, at best, misleading

Research underscores the importance of access to the High Court’s inherent supervisory jurisdiction

Many of the widely held assumptions about the costs and misuse of judicial review are, at best, misleading and, at worst, false. That is the finding of research undertaken by the Public Law Project and the University of Essex, with Maurice Sunkin as the Principal Investigator. The study – The Value and Effects of Judicial Review: The Nature of Claims, their Outcomes and Consequences – was funded by the Nuffield Foundation.

The study draws on a complete data set of all judicial reviews that had a final hearing over a 20-month period. The data set is supplemented with a survey of claimant solicitors covering 198 of these cases, a survey covering defendant solicitor perspectives on 54 cases, and in-depth interviews with a number of claimant and defendant solicitors and key informants with expert knowledge in this field.

The research team say that there are a number of widely held and influential assumptions about the costs and misuse of judicial review (JR). First, that the past growth in the use of JR has been largely driven by claimants abusing the system, either deliberately or otherwise.  Second, that the effect of JR on public administration is largely negative because JR makes it more difficult for public bodies to deliver public services efficiently.  Third, that JR litigation tends to be an expensive and time consuming detour concerned with technical matters of procedure that rarely alters decisions of public bodies.

These claims have been challenged for their lack of empirical basis and this study provides additional evidence which shows them to be at best misleading and at worst false.

Overall, the findings underscore the importance of access to the High Court's inherent supervisory jurisdiction, for claimants, defendants, and for the wider public interest.

The report is here.