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Government launches panel to review scope of judicial review powers

The UK Government has launched a new panel to examine the case for reforming judicial review – the power that allows citizens to legally challenge a decision of the Government or another public body. In February, Humanists UK, with help from Index on Censorship, coordinated a joint letter from a wide variety of charities and other human rights-interested groups and individuals calling on the Government to uphold freedom and justice and protect the vital mechanisms, such as judicial review, which underpin it. Today it has reiterated that call.

This panel, which is led by Lord Edward Faulks QC, who was formerly a member of the Commission considering whether to replace the Human Rights Act with a British Bill of Rights, will focus on four main areas of reform. Firstly, it will consider whether the types of decisions that can be challenged using judicial review should be written into law. Secondly, it will look at whether there are subjects or areas that should not be open to judicial review. Thirdly, it will review what remedies and grounds a court can propose against the Government. And finally, it will look into procedural reforms such as changes to the time-limit for bringing cases and the appeals process.

The launch of this panel follows on from the Conservative Party’s manifesto pledge to create a Constitution, Democracy & Rights Commission to look at the broader aspects of our constitution, within the first year in office.

Humanists UK’s Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented, ‘The power of judicial review is a vital safeguard and check on executive power. It has allowed humanists to successfully challenge discrimination, including just today on the legal recognition of humanist marriages in England and Wales; on humanist marriages in Northern Ireland; on allowing humanists to sit on advisory boards for religious education in schools; for humanism to be included in school curricula; and to provide a meaningful alternative to compulsory collective worship in schools.

‘We hope this review will continue to support, rather restrict, the scope and operation of this power, and certainly intend to contribute to it to make our views clear.’

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For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at press@humanism.org.uk or phone 020 7324 3072 or 07534 248 596.

Read more about our joint letter on protecting the Human Rights Act and Judicial Review: https://humanism.org.uk/2020/02/18/protect-human-rights-and-access-to-the-law-says-humanists-uk-in-joint-letter/

Read more about our work on human rights and equality: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/human-rights-and-equality/

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 85,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

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