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The value of judicial review

Researchers: Professor Maurice Sunkin, QC | Varda Bondy

Project overview

Does judicial review give judges too much power? Does the process waste public money? Or is judicial review a vital tool for holding government to account? These questions will be addressed in a major new study undertaken by the University of Essex and the Public Law Project.

Judicial review is increasingly used to seek redress and many cases attract significant media coverage such as the challenges to the government’s Building Schools for the Future Programme and John Prescott’s litigation against the police after the News of the World phone hacking scandal.

It is regarded by many as a sign of the importance of the rule of law in the UK and of the ability of ordinary people to hold government to account. However, government ministers have been highly critical of judgments, alleging that judges have overstepped their authority when striking down decisions of elected politicians. It is also claimed that this kind of litigation, especially in an age of austerity, wastes public money and distracts public authorities.

The two-year project will seek to obtain an independent evidence-based assessment of the value and effect of judicial review. As well as exploring the way government responds to judicial decisions and how they sometimes result in the alteration of policy, the study will examine how ordinary claimants fare when public authority decisions that fundamentally affect their lives are reviewed by courts.

Latest on this project


  • Professor Maurice Sunkin, QC
    University of Essex
  • Varda Bondy
    Public Law Project

  • Director, Welfare
    Nuffield Foundation

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We aim to improve people’s lives by funding research that informs social policy, primarily in Education, Welfare and Justice. We also fund student programmes that give young people skills and confidence in science and research.

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