APIL PI Focus: April 2013
APIL’s judicial review of the Secretary of State for Justice’s decision to reduce fees within the portal for road traffic accident claims failed in the Administrative Court on 1 March.
The main points are:
- The principal argument that there had been a consultation with insurers, which culminated in the insurer summit at Downing Street on 14 February 2012, was misconceived. The court found that this was not a consultation. It was merely an approach to ensure that the insurance industry would agree to the proposals and share the cost savings by reducing premiums for motorists.
- The court found as fact that the decision to reduce fees had been taken by the government before the summit of 14 February 2011 without consultation. ‘Reading everything in the round there can be no real doubt about the government’s intentions’, said the court.
- The Secretary of State argued that it would be pointless to allow the JR and make the government go back to the beginning of the process, as claimants’ views were already well known to the minister before the decision was taken. The court accepted this, commenting that ‘in a usual claim for unfairness I should give relief despite the disruption it creates and should not dismiss the claim even if it was likely to make no difference to the outcome.’ (There is case law which says that even if the outcome would be the same, this is no reason to refuse an application for JR). But the court felt that this case was exceptional, and it would be pointless to allow the application to continue.
- There were also concerns that the application had been brought late, and the court was not minded to exercise its discretion on that point.
- The court added that, in finding for the Secretary of State, it was not making a decision on the merits of the decision (to reduce fees); it had heard ‘powerful arguments about the effects on access to justice’, but the claim sought to judicialise ordinary policy-making decisions.