Judicial review is a means by which the courts can supervise bodies which exercise public functions to ensure that they are acting both lawfully and fairly.
If you feel that you or your community has been subject to an unlawful or unfair decision by a public body, you should contact a solicitor to see if there is a possibility of making a claim for judicial review.
A solicitor will be able to advise on the processes that should be taken before any judicial review action is taken as well as the likely cost of proceedings, which can be very expensive.
The courts’ power to review has emerged primarily from case law, with judges seemingly giving themselves discretion to hold the public bodies accountable. This has not been without controversy since many people consider that unelected judges should not get in the way of publicly elected decisions.
Nevertheless, judicial review has now been commonly accepted to safeguard the individual against unlawful and unfair decisions, and a solicitor should be contacted if you feel there has been an unlawful or unfair decision.
It is perhaps for the reason that it is not for an unelected judge to make decisions that the scope of judicial review is limited both in its availability and function.
When a judicial review case is brought against a particular decision, a judge will not rule on whether the decision that was made was made on the correct merits, or if it was, in his view, the wrong decision. The judge will simply conduct a review of the process by which the decision was reached in order to assess whether that decision was vitiated by some flaw, or if it did not have the authority to make the decision in the first place.
Solicitor’s role in making a claim
A solicitor should be the first point of call should you be considering making a claim for judicial review. A solicitor will be able to advise on the cost of a judicial review application and the likely chance of success. They will also point out that even if you are successful in your judicial review claim, it does not necessarily mean the public bodies’ decision will change. The public body may have to remake the decision using the correct process, but that may not necessarily lead to a different outcome.
Fair hearing over fair decision
Essentially, the courts use judicial review as a way of protecting the public from unlawful and unfair acts by a public body.
It should be noted, however, that in order to win a claim for judicial review for an unfair act, the unfairness of the decision must relate to whether there was a fair hearing rather than the actual fairness of the decision.
With regard to the decision being unfair, or irrational, there is a very high bar which must be shown before a court will rule on irrationality.
Therefore, in all likelihood if you are to succeed with a judicial review claim you must be able to show that the public body acted unlawfully or have an extremely strong case in regard to unfairness and irrationality.
All routes for appeal must be exhausted before you make an application for judicial review, but if you are still considering making an application you should contact a local solicitor.