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The future for costs in judicial review

The Unison judgment may inform the debate on Jackson LJ’s recent proposal for the current CPR rules on costs in environmental cases to be extended to all judicial review claims, explains Richard Honey

14 September 2017

In R (Unison) v Lord Chancellor [2017] UKSC 51, the Supreme Court highlighted the practical importance of being able to exercise the right of access to justice. The court found that the fees imposed for employment tribunal cases were unlawful because of their effects on access to justice.

The case was argued primarily on the basis of the common law right of access to justice. The court noted that the constitutional right of access to the courts is inherent in the rule of law. In order for the courts to perform their role, people must in principle have unimpeded access to them.

Lord Reed explained that, without such access, laws are liable to become a dead letter and democracy may become a meaningless charade. Knowing that parties can resort to the courts underpins everyday economic and social relations: the possibility must exist of claims being brought by people whose rights are infringed.

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