Government’s judicial review plans risk irreversibly damaging human rights, warns Humanists UK

5 May, 2021

The Rt Hon. Robert Buckland QC MP | Secretary of State for Justice | Licenced Under Creative Commons 3.0,

Humanists UK has criticised proposals that would severely curtail judicial review – a process that allows citizens to legally challenge government decisions –  in response to a consultation by the Ministry of Justice.

In its submission, Humanists UK stated that the Government’s plans to carve out vast areas of decision-making from judicial scrutiny – which would effectively make them immune from challenge – amount to one of the ‘severest limitations of rights to judicial review in its history’ and have ‘alarming implications for the rule of law’. It also criticised proposals that would see ordinary citizens unable to obtain remedies for risking irrevocable damage to access to justice.

Following the Government’s rebuke of its own Independent Review of Administrative Law, Humanists UK also criticised plans to abolish a procedure that protects the rights of asylum seekers, and recommended scrapping time limits known to penalise those struggling to obtain legal aid.

Humanists UK leads a coalition of 190+ charities, trades unions, and human rights organisations in calling for the protections of the Human Rights Act and judicial review to be maintained. It also submitted their joint statement on the matter to the Ministry.

Humanists UK’s Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson said: 

‘Judicial review is an essential safeguard against the misuse of public power. It enables ordinary citizens to obtain redress when they have been subjected to unlawful decisions, and makes sure that public authorities are held to account when they abuse or deny us our fundamental rights. It is the linchpin of accountability in our constitution, and the embodiment of the rule of law in practice.

‘Taken together the Government’s plans seek to abolish the right to judicial review for many areas of law, and at the same time weaken its effectiveness in the circumstances it could still be invoked. They amount to a programme of misguided and unwarranted reforms which would have terrible consequences for access to justice, the rule of law, and ordinary people challenging injustices. We urge the Government to abandon these proposals, and instead focus upon expanding access to justice and strengthening our human rights.’


For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at or phone 020 7324 3072 or 07534 248 596.

Read Humanists UK’s response to the Ministry of Justice Consultation.

Read Humanists UK’s response to the Independent Review of Administrative Law and its response.

Read more about our work on human rights and equality.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

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