Judicial review

Judicial review is the process by which a court can challenge and overturn the decision of a public body. This can include decisions made by local authorities, NHS trusts, schools and regulatory bodies.

What is the process?

A judge will review the decision of a local authority to determine if a decision was made lawfully and fairly. This means the court will look at whether the decision maker acted ultra vires (beyond the power of the decision maker), exercised its power wrongly, or has not made a decision in accordance with the law. A decision can also be challenged if it is so unreasonable that no reasonable authority could ever have come to it. It is very important to understand that the court will not consider the merits of a decision, and the court may well uphold the original decision of the public body.

Judicial review is often seen as a last resort, and if there is an alternative process, such as an appeal, this avenue must be explored before a judicial review application can be pursued.

What is a public body?

In some circumstances, it can be difficult to determine what decision can be challenged in a judicial review. As already stated, public bodies can include local authorities, regulators etc, but the distinction between a public and private body can often be blurred. To get around this, the court can review decisions by judicial review if the body is performing functions that have public law consequences.

Who can bring a judicial review claim?

To bring an application for judicial review the court must be satisfied that the party has interest – or locus standi  – in the matter. Unfortunately, there is no direct definition of what sufficient interest means but the court will have regard to the relevant factors including:

  • The extent of the party’s interest in the issue
  • Consideration of maintain the rule of law
  • The nature and severity of the breach of duty by the public body

Judicial reviews claims must be brought promptly, and there is a time limit of three months from the decision being made.

What remedies are available in judicial review claims?

The question of the remedies available is obviously an important factor in determining whether to bring an application for Judicial review. It is important to note that the remedies are discretionary, meaning a Judge is not obliged to award the remedy being sought, or any remedy at all.  Generally, the following remedies are available

  • Injunctions, either restraining a body from exercising a decision beyond its power or requiring a body to carry out its legal decisions
  • A quashing order, quashing the decision of the public body
  • Damages, but only in exceptional circumstances
  • Declarations, these merely set out the legal decision and do not order a specific action

How much does it cost to bring an application?

Judicial reviews can be complex, with strict procedures and time limits. This is why it is recommended that you seek legal representation as soon as possible. We will discuss the merits of an application, analyse the risks, and review all relevant documentation. We will endeavour to keep costs low whilst always maintaining a high level of expertise and service.