Judicial Review

Judicial Review is the process by which judges examine the decisions of public bodies and consider whether the law has been correctly followed. It is important to stress that a judicial review is not a re-run on the merits of the decision. Judges confine themselves to considering whether the decision being challenged was lawful, and complies with the principles of public law.

Judicial Review

If a Judicial Review claim is successful the usual result is that the decision is “quashed” or nullified and has to be taken again. While this means that the public body can take exactly the same decision again, the need to follow proper procedure means that, in practice, at least a better – and often a substantively different – decision results.

Judicial Review can be an expensive and time-consuming process but it often the last mechanism people have for checking the abuse of power within Government and public bodies. It is therefore crucial for upholding the rule of law.

The decisions, acts, and failures to act by public bodies exercising public functions are all potentially challengeable by judicial review. In an environmental context, such bodies may include government ministers, local authorities, Non-Departmental Public Bodies (NDPBs) such as the Environment Agency and Natural England.

Judicial reviews can be sought on the grounds that a decision is:

  • illegal – arises when a decision-maker misdirects itself in law, exercises a power wrongly, or improperly purports to exercise a power that it does not have, which is known as acting ‘ultra vires’;
  • irrational – a decision may be challenged as unreasonable if it “is so unreasonable that no reasonable authority could ever have come to it”;
  • procedurally improper – a failure to observe statutory procedures or natural justice; or
  • in breach of legitimate expectation, either procedural or substantive) – when a public body is, by its own statements or acts, required to respond in a particular way but fails to do so. There cannot, however, be any expectation that the body will act unfairly or beyond its powers and the need to observe expectations must not fetter the public authority.

The question of remedies is often critical in judicial review proceedings, as it may determine not only whether it is worthwhile bringing a claim, but also whether permission will be granted to bring the claim.

One or more of six forms of final relief are available, and all are discretionary.

  • an order quashing the decision in question (quashing order);
  • an order restraining the body under review from acting beyond its powers (prohibitory order) – this is rare as an injunction will usually suffice;
  • an order requiring the body under review to carry out its legal duties (mandatory order);
  • a declaration;
  • a stay or injunction;

We are experienced in Judicial Reviews especially in relation to HMRC and can act quickly in seeking immediate injunctive relief.

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What our clients say...

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