What's Judicial Review ever done for you?

Posted by Sara Ogilvie on 01 December 2014

What does Judicial Review mean to you?  If you think it’s just some dry legalistic process, think again! Here are our top five cases which couldn’t have happened without it:

Blanket DNA Database: Liberty intervened in the S and Marper case regarding blanket police DNA collection and retention under section 64 PACE. The litigation ultimately went all the way to the Court of Human Rights, where the UK Government lost. When the Coalition Government came into power it introduced a change in the law that led to the deletion of over a million innocent people’s DNA profiles. 

Following Liberty’s intervention in the Court of Appeal, Lord Justice Sedley said he had found our submission a great help, stating 'It avoids the polar positions adopted, as tends to happen in litigation, by the parties and instead reasons by degrees. The distinction which Liberty draws between DNA profiles and the bodily samples from which the profiles are derived is in my judgment crucial to what we have to decide.'

Children in custody:  Just for Kids Law supported a challenge to the treatment of 17 year olds as adults for the purpose of police interview.  This followed two tragic cases of suicide following the separate arrest and detention of two 17 year old boys.  Both the Coram Children’s Legal Centre and the Howard League intervened in the case, making submissions which were expressly appreciated by the court.  

The court said ‘Much of the substantial material with which the court was provided came as a result of the submissions of the two interveners ... Many of the important arguments were not contained in the claimant’s submissions but rather emerged, if one delved into the interstices, within the intervener’s submissions’. The High Court found that the Home Secretary’s refusal to treat 17 year olds as children for the purposes of custody breached Article 8, the right to respect for private and family life.

Closure of care homes:  Ms Pamela Coughlan, a wheelchair user with severe physical disabilities, faced eviction from her care home and being means-tested for her continued care.  She successfully challenged the decision to treat her vital support as social care rather than healthcare provided for free by the NHS.  Without judicial review, Mrs Coughlan would have been moved from the place she expected to be her home for life.

Lewisham Hospital: A victorious Judicial Review allowed Lewisham residents to challenge the closure of their local Accident and Emergency and Maternity hospital units. The High Court ruled that the Health Secretary had acted outside of his powers in declaring that the services should be cut. The Government appealed, but the Court of Appeal upheld the High Court’s decision. The challenge was brought by campaign group Save Lewisham Hospital and the London Borough of Lewisham, and was funded in part by crowd-sourced contributions.

Secret evidence and the 7/7 bombings:  The Government asked the coroner to sit in a “closed material procedure”: a legal process intended to deal with sensitive national security material.  However, bereaved families and their lawyers could have been excluded from the inquests with their lawyers unable to challenge the material placed before the coroner and unable to speak to the security vetted special advocate.  JUSTICE, INQUEST and Liberty intervened in the case to argue in favour of open, transparent and accessible inquests compatible with the UK’s obligation to protect the right to life.  The court upheld the coroners’ refusal to sit in closed hearings.