Documents to download

The Judicial Review and Courts Bill 2021-22 was introduced to the House on 21 July 2021. Second reading took place on 26 October 2021.

The Bill would reform rules affecting judicial reviews and bring in changes to the court system, including allowing remote access to inquests.

The Bill was considered by a Public Bill Committee over 11 sittings between 2 and 18 November 2021. The Committee took evidence from expert witnesses for the first two sittings and external stakeholders submitted written evidence. It is due to have Commons report stage on 25 January 2022.

The Bill, together with its Explanatory Notes and an overview of its parliamentary progress, is available on the Parliament website. Overarching documents are available on GOV.UK. Full policy background to the Bill as it was introduced is set out in Library briefing, Judicial Review and Courts Bill 2021-22.

Government amendments in Committee

The only amendments agreed by the Committee were relatively minor changes to two of the criminal procedure clauses (and a related schedule).

The Committee agreed some minor Government amendments to clause 7 and schedule 2, to correct drafting errors (these are not covered in this paper). The Committee also agreed several Government amendments to clause 9 (on hearings in the absence of the defendant):

  • One group of Government amendments extended the scope of clause 9 to cover plea before venue hearings (when a defendant gives an indication of plea in a magistrates’ court) as well as allocation hearings (when the case is referred to either magistrates’ or Crown Court to continue). This was to remove what the Justice Minister James Cartlidge described as “a legislative roadblock”.
  • Another Government amendment dealt with what the Minister described as a “drafting error”. It removed the requirement for a legal representative to be present at a hearing that is being conducted in the defendant’s absence, due to the defendant’s disorderly behaviour. This requirement does not appear in the existing legislation that the Government intended clause 9 to replicate, and its inclusion in clause 9 had been a mistake.

Other main areas of debate

Judicial review

The two clauses in the judicial review part of the Bill were approved by the Public Bill Committee without amendment.

The Opposition tabled a number of amendments to clauses 1 and 2. These aimed to ensure that courts retain discretion over whether to use the new remedies provided for by the Bill; to remove the power to limit the retrospective effect of quashing orders; and to limit the rule that decisions of the Upper Tribunal cannot be reviewed, among other things.

The Opposition also pressed clauses 1 and 2 to stand part votes (on the question of whether the clause should remain part of the Bill (PDF)), unsuccessfully.

Criminal procedure

The Opposition tabled multiple amendments to the criminal procedure clauses, with the overarching aim of introducing more procedural safeguards for defendants and removing children from the scope of the proposed new procedures. The Opposition pressed four of these amendments to a vote, in each case unsuccessfully. The Opposition also pressed clauses 3, 6, 8 and 13 to clause stand part divisions, again unsuccessfully.

Online procedure

The main debate in relation to online procedure concerned statutory safeguards for those who would find it difficult to engage in court proceedings by digital means. Debate also covered the proposed size and composition of the Online Procedure Rule Committee. No amendments were pressed to a vote.

Employment tribunals

The Bill’s clauses relating to employment tribunals were not subject to any significant debate and were not amended.


The Opposition tabled amendments to clause 37 aiming, among other things, to introduce safeguards relating to the proposed extension of when a coroner might end an investigation into a death, if the cause of death becomes clear.  

Further Opposition amendments were tabled to clauses 38 and 39 aimed at ensuring the agreement and particiation of families and openness regarding proposals to allow non-contentious inquests to be held in writing and on the use of audio or video links at inquests.

New clauses were also tabled which would have increased the availalbility of legal aid for those participating in inquests.

There were divisions on several of the amendments and a new clause, and a stand part divison on clause 39, all of which were defeated by the Government.

Local justice areas

The Committee considered an Opposition amendment to clause 42, which would have required the Government to consult with relevant stakeholders before abolishing local justice areas (jurisdictional boundaries between magistrates’ courts (PDF)). The amendment was withdrawn after debate.

Further Government amendments for report stage

The Government has tabled a number of amendments for report stage aimed at clarifying provisions in the Bill or changing terminology.

New Clause 1 and a series of consequential amendments would faciliate the Government’s proposal to increase the sentencing powers of magistrates’ courts.

The Government has announced it intends to increase the maximum sentence that can be imposed by a magistrates’ court for one offence from six months to 12 months, which it says is necessary to deal with the backlog of cases built up during the pandemic. The Government said it will do this by bringing into force a provision that was contained in section 154 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 and is now found in Part 5 of Schedule 22 of the Sentencing Act 2020.

The Government’s amendments to the Bill would allow it to reduce the maximum sentence a magistrates’ court could impose in the future back to 6 months and subsequently increase it again to 12 months via regulations. The Government has described this as putting an ‘off-switch’ in law so it can quickly stop the measures if needed.

Documents to download

Related posts