ARE COURTS ACCOUNTABLE? How 3 months became 3 years for judicial review application to get to judge

CAN THE PRESS MAKE A DIFFERENCE?

ESSEX NEWS & INVESTIGATION OPINION


AN application for judicial review was made in 2018 concerning a police case I have followed for years.

It still hasn't been heard and even the applicant's legal team just told him they were waiting for a judge to take it on and be patient.

Since 2018 I have regularly kept tabs and asked when the case would be heard, but the answer was always the same - "it's with the court."

It seemed no one wanted to "annoy the court" for fear of an unfavourable outcome.

But, with an aging applicant there was the risk he would never have his bid for justice.

Something didn't seem right so I took matters into my own hands.

First I asked the High Court what it's target was for dealing with judicial review applications.

"Three months," came back the answer.

So 2018... three months, I thought.

Well, "what's going on with this case from 2018," I said.

"Oh, that case was stayed, but now it isn't," they said.

"Stayed from when until when," I asked.

"May to August 2020," they said.

Three months, I thought - that's November 2020 - forgetting about what went on in 2018!

"So, what is happening with this case?" I said.

"It's waiting to be allocated to a judge," the court said.

So what about this 3 months I thought, expecting the cover all corona cop out to follow.

So I asked the court who are the people responsible for allocating cases to judges and "who are they accountable to?"

I said my interest was as a journalist who had covered the incident that led to the police probe for the last decade, plus a wider interest in the swift and open administration of justice.

Now, my opinion is that courts don't like being asked questions, even more so than police, and that is the vibe I maintained from fairly abrupt responses that followed.

But, remember, although courts administer the law, they are not above it, and are accountable and have to follow procedures.

It is fair to call them out if it is done respectfully.

I didn't get any answers to my questions about accountability, but I did get informed that the case landed on a judge's lap for a decision this week.

When that decision will be made, I was told, will be in "due course" and they won't even identify the judge, but has this case finally got moving?

Let's hope so.

And, did I have anything to do with that happening or was it just a coincidence?

Who knows but some people I told think it was the former.