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R v Lord Chancellor, ex parte Witham

[1998] QB 575

Case summary last updated at 07/01/2020 14:57 by the Oxbridge Notes in-house law team.

Judgement for the case R v Lord Chancellor, ex parte Witham

The LC tried to increase court fees with the effect that many poor people would be incapable of bringing cases. A person affected by this sought judicial review, which was granted. CA held that access to the courts was a constitutional right which could only be abrogated by a piece of legislation specifically allowing the LC to do so. The legislation under which the LC purported to raise the fees did not do this. Accordingly the decision to raise fees was ultra vires and therefore unlawful. 
 
Laws J: It is unnecessary to refer to ECHR articles because the right of access to the courts is enshrined in domestic law through precedent. This approach (finding a right substantively the same as those in the ECHR in precedent) was done with regard to free speech in Derbyshire CC v Times Newspapers. It is so important a right that only an explicit parliamentary provision can allow the executive to abrogate from it. 

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