In her response to the Independent Review of Administrative Law call for evidence, Victims’ Commissioner Dame Vera Baird QC calls on the panel to approach its task with “care and caution” and asked what steps the panel is taking to ensure claimants’ views are sought as part of the reform process.
The independent review was launched by the government in July 2020 to consider options for reform to the process of judicial review. The call for evidence asked whether judicial review strikes the right balance between enabling citizens to challenge the lawfulness of government action and allowing the executive and local authorities to carry out the business of government.
Dame Vera said she passionately believed that everyone should have access to justice and that judicial review should be regarded as a means of enhancing the effectiveness of government and not undermining it.
As an example of how important judicial review is as a method of oversight and accountability for victims, Dame Vera cited the case of the so-called ‘black cab rapist’ John Worboys. Two survivors of Worboys won their claim for compensation from the Metropolitan Police after the Supreme Court ruled that the force had failed to carry out an effective investigation. The judgment set a far-reaching precedent for police liability by allowing victims to argue that they have been subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment under article 3 of the European convention on human rights.
Dame Vera Baird, Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales said:
“An essential component of a fair and democratic society is that everyone has the means to challenge the lawfulness of actions taken by government. Judicial review is a key mechanism of accountability and is often one of very few options to victims of crime who have been let down by criminal justice agencies and are seeking justice.
It is vital to a fair society that someone should be able to challenge unlawful decisions and actions of public bodies. As such, I would like to understand what steps the panel is taking to ensure claimants’ views are sought as part of the reform process.”