Since when were charities and campaign groups the bad guys? They stand up for the most vulnerable when Government policy rides roughshod over them. They stand up for those most affected by the changes. Life isn’t fair – Government policy often has a very unequal impact on people – and those most affected stand to lose the opportunity to call the Government to account.
It is very very hard to win a judicial review. Fewer than one in ten succeed. That does not mean, however, that nine out of ten are spurious. Losing a case should not mean that it should never have been brought. Life is rarely that black and white – there are often difficult legal questions to explore on which there are currently no answers, so requiring the input of a judge.
The bringing of a judicial review often achieves results even where the case ultimately fails, as many concessions are achieved through negotiation along the way. Such concessions would not be on the table without the threat of legal challenge. The Government will concede on areas where it will lose in court, but chooses to challenge those areas where there is no clear answer – rightly so.
Media coverage is not the aim. Indeed, campaign groups often go quiet in the media so as not to disadvantage their case. Media coverage is probably an indication that someone has a point – that it is not spurious, and that the answer is unclear.
Few individuals would take on the Government without the assistance of a campaign group of a charity. For a start, costs can be exorbitantly high – cases are heard in the High Court and require top level barristers.
It is a sad indictment that objecting to a Government policy change paints a campaign group or charity as ‘left-wing’. Charities and campaign groups aim to be politically active from a policy point of view, while many remain a-political.
The best way to reduce the number of judicial review cases is to make better policy. Policy is less open to legal challenge if it is based on proper evidence, researched and thought through, rather than being made on gut instinct. The system is, as Mr Grayling recognises, ‘an important way to right wrongs’. Let’s keep it that way.