What is a Judicial Review?
Judicial review is a court proceeding where a judge reviews the lawfulness of a decision or action made by a public body.
The court does not usually decide if the decision made was the right one, the court instead decides whether the correct law and procedure has been followed in reaching the decision.
The court can look at whether a decision is reasonable and whether it has been reached fairly for example whether you were given an opportunity to explain and put your case forward, or whether the correct process was followed.
The court will also make sure the public body has performed any duties it has, and whether it has complied with their legal obligations.
Human Rights Act & Judicial Review
In the UK, human rights are protected by the Human Rights Act 1998. Only public authorities must follow the Human Rights Act.
This means you can take action under the Human Rights Act if a public authority has breached your human rights. But you can’t take action against a private individual as they’re not covered by the Act.
If your human rights have been violated and an injustice has been done, our Civil Liberties and Public Law specialists may be able to challenge the actions of the authorities.
Public authorities (such as a local council, statutory tribunal etc.) are supervised by the Administrative Courts in England and Wales. The decisions they make, where there is no other right of appeal, are susceptible to challenge.
If a decision has been made that you feel has breached your human rights, you may have a case for Judicial Review. If appropriate we may be able to apply to the Administrative Court to review the decision.
What should be done before a Judicial Review case is issued at court?
An important principle of judicial review is that the court will only usually interfere if you have first exhausted all other available remedies. This means for example that if the public body has a complaints or appeals process you would be expected to have used this first.
What is the procedure of Judicial Review?
If you meet the criteria for a judicial review, a ‘letter before claim’ will be sent to the public body concerned. This will detail the facts of the case and why you believe the decision/action/inaction of the public body is wrong and what action you want to be taken to be put it right.
The public body should be advised that if no satisfactory response is returned within a specified time limit judicial review proceedings will be issued. If no satisfactory response is returned, then an application for permission will be made to the Administrative Court.
A judge will then consider the arguments and decide whether or not to grant permission to proceed with the judicial review to a full hearing.
What is the time limit for a judicial review claim?
A Judicial Review claim must be commenced promptly and in any event no later than three months after the grounds to make the claim first arose.
In some cases it is possible to extend the three month period for good reason however this can be very difficult. In practice, this means the case should be issued as soon as possible subject to complying with the requirement for a letter of claim and response and a requirement of avoiding court proceedings where possible.
What happens if permission is refused?
If permission is refused then this is not necessarily the end of the case.
You have a right to “renew” the application for an “oral hearing”.
If a case is “renewed” at an oral hearing there will be a short hearing to try to convince the judge that the case is arguable and that permission should be granted.
What happens if permission is granted?
If the judge grants permission, it is often the case that the defendant will decide to reconsider their position.
If the defendant decides to continue to contest the claim, they will serve “detailed grounds” and evidence in reply to the claim. This evidence is normally a witness statement.
Both parties then need to set out their arguments for the final hearing.
The decision will be delivered following the hearing, which may take some weeks. In urgent cases the decision may be given immediately.
What are the possible remedies in Judicial Review cases?
If the Administrative Court decides that the act, omission or decision is not lawful it can:
- Make a ‘Quashing Order’ which cancels the decision made by the defendant normally meaning that the decision must be taken again
- Make a ‘Mandatory Order’ which requires the defendant do something, for example perform a duty to give you a service.
- Make a ‘Prohibiting Order’ which prevents a defendant from doing something, for example from taking a service away from you.
- Grant an injunction (although this is more often done at a preliminary stage to prevent the defendant taking away a service or doing something to you, pending the outcome of the case).
- Make a declaration that an act, omission or decision was lawful or unlawful
- Award compensation, although this is rare in judicial review cases.
Our Civil Liberties and Public Law specialists are on hand to support and advise you every step of the way.
Different levels of legal aid may be available for your case and we always assess new enquiries to see if they are in scope for funding – this will depend on the facts/type of case and means assessment. Wherever a case falls outside of scope we may be able to offer you a fixed fee and/or our hourly rates. All these funding options can be discussed with our new enquiry team.
2 steps to contacting Howells:
We’ll listen carefully to you, clarify what you’re trying to achieve, and then explain if and how we can help you. We will take some initial information and liaise with a legal professional regarding your case. If it looks like we can help, we will book you in for a consultation with a legal professional.