Government plans to put itself above the law

Posted on 29 Apr 2021

The Government is misrepresenting the findings of an independent report and using it as cover to introduce sweeping constitutional reforms.

  • Government’s rushed review misrepresents independent report
  • Report findings used as cover for sweeping constitutional reform
  • Plans will damage access to justice and put those in power above the law

Liberty has criticised the Government for misrepresenting the findings of an independent report and using it as cover to introduce sweeping constitutional reforms.

The rights group issued the warning in its response to the Ministry of Justice’s Judicial Review Reform consultation, which seeks to change Judicial Review – a legal tool people can use to uphold their rights and challenge bad decisions made by governments and public bodies.

The consultation, which closes today, follows the Government commissioned Independent Review of Administrative Law, which found that judicial review is vital for ensuring governments act within the law and has a positive impact on public decision-making.

But the Government has misrepresented the independent panel’s findings and Liberty believe that this misrepresentation is now being used as cover for wide-ranging proposals that would weaken the vital role of judicial review as a safeguard on rights and our democracy.

Liberty warns in its response to the consultation that the Government plans will:

  • Damage people’s ability to access justice and uphold their rights
  • Weaken a crucial tool to hold governments and public bodies to account
  • Erode the rule of law – and by extension undermine the UK’s democracy

The Government’s plans are part of a much bigger attempt to put itself beyond scrutiny in the courts, in Parliament and on the streets. Recent months have seen countless pieces of legislation pass into law without proper Parliamentary scrutiny, meanwhile the crackdown on protest has damaged people’s ability to make their voices heard.

The consultation has also previously been criticised by a number of rights groups, including Liberty, for being so rushed that proper analysis of the complex plans had been made almost impossible. The Ministry of Justice ignored the groups’ request for an extension.

Sam Grant, Liberty head of policy and campaigns, said: “We all want to live in a fair and equal democracy. No one should be above the law and judicial review protects that principle, allowing ordinary people to hold government and public authorities to account.

“If judicial review is limited, we’re on a dangerous path where governments – both now and in the future – can no longer be held to account. Liberty along with many others in civil society is extremely concerned by the way this Government is operating right now. We must be able to stand up to power, on the streets, in the courts and through the media. We must come together and challenge these alarming proposals and protect our democratic principles.”

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