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Judicial review solicitors

Our civil liberties and public law team have undertaken judicial review work since 2002 and have been involved in a number of cases which have lead directly and indirectly to changes in the law.

The team is nationally recognised as leaders in the field of human rights law and judicial review and are members of key associations in this area including the Police Action Lawyers Group.

Our team offer advice in a number of areas of law which provide final challenge by way of judicial review.

Cases can be funded under a number of options including privately, by way of crowd funding, forms of no win no fee or legal aid where available.

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Judicial review specialists

Stephensons are specialists in pursuing cases on behalf of individuals whose human rights have been affected by the actions, decisions or failures of a public body.

The team offer advice in a number of areas of law which can lead to court proceedings known as a judicial review. Our experience includes cases against the Secretary of State for Justice, Home Office, Legal Aid Agency, Ofcom, local authorities, CICA, DBS, chief constables and coroners.

This is a special type of court proceeding in which a judge reviews the lawfulness of a decision or action taken by a public body. It is a challenge to the way in which a decision has been made, rather than the rights and wrongs of the conclusion reached.

The court will not substitute what it thinks is the ‘correct’ decision, rather it will look at the way in which the decision has been taken.

This may mean that the public body will be able to make the same decision again, so long as it does so in a lawful way.

These type of proceedings need to be taken ‘promptly’ or usually within three months of the decision being challenged (much shorter periods apply to planning and procurement / public tender types of case).

When can a judicial review be made?

There are three potential grounds of challenge:

Illegality / Unlawfulness - This ground is met if the public body has breached the law in relation to their decision/action/inaction. For example, the public body may not have had regard to its statutory duties to provide a service, or there may have been a mistake about facts made which suffices as an error in law. Breaches of human rights may also form an illegal decision.

Irrationality / Unreasonableness - This ground involves the decision under challenge being considered ‘so unreasonable that a reasonable person would consider it so’. Irrationality has a high threshold, much higher than being unreasonable would be considered in day to day use of the term. The ground can be difficult to meet as it requires ‘something overwhelming’ and the court will often give a decision maker in a specialist position a wide margin of appreciation as to what is reasonable.

Procedural Irregularity / Unfairness - This ground normally involves a fundamental error in a process which undermines it as a whole and would change the final outcome. Examples may include situations where there is clear bias in a decision such as a person reviewing their own previous decision or a failure to allow representations where required.

A judicial review is known as a remedy of last resort, so if alternatives exist to solve the issue then these should normally be pursued e.g. an internal complaints procedures, ombudsman or action in private law. In some cases there are reasons to pursue a judicial review because alternatives wold not offer an effective remedy due to then immediacy of the issue or a lack of power to require something to be done (rather than complain about it not having been done).

What is the procedure of judicial review?

Every Judicial Review case is unique, but generally the procedure breaks down into three parts:

Pre issue

Instructions will be taken and evidence considered by your legal team, if grounds for judicial review can be identified then a letter will be sent to the opponent setting out why it is believed their failure to act, action or decision is unlawful and may be challenged. The letter will set out the facts and what needs to be done to avoid court proceedings. You will become known as the claimant

The opponent should consider this correspondence and respond in the given time frame setting out whether they will agree to take steps to meet the concern or disagree with the issues that are raised.

If no satisfactory response is received then the next step will be to issue proceedings at court.  

Pre permission

  • The necessary paperwork will, be prepared, sent to the court and a copy sent to the public body.
    • A court fee is payable to lodge papers into court
  • This may include an urgent request for an order to stop something happening or seek shortened timescales and a faster hearing process.
  • The public body will be sent a copy of the court papers and given the opportunity to respond to the claim setting out their case. They will be known as the defendant. Other parties may also be involved as defendants or interested parties (this may occur when you challenge a decision made by an organisation who has considered a decision by another party, or the decision of the court will affect that organisation).
  • A judge will then be asked to consider the case papers and may either:
    • Grant permission to seek judicial review
    • Refuse permission to see judicial review or
    • Arrange a hearing to consider matters further (sometimes this means the court will consider the full case and make a rolled up decision at the final hearing if the matter is urgent).
  • If permission is not granted then an application can be made to reconsider the decision at an oral hearing, unless the Judge has decided the case is so poor this should not be allowed.
    • A court fee is payable to seek an oral renewal hearing
  • An individual may represent themselves at such a hearing, have an advocate to do so or seek permission to have another individual speak on their behalf.
  • The judge may then
    • Grant permission or
    • Refuse permission.
      • It may be possible to appeal this to the Court of Appeal but there is a very short timescale to do this and additional court costs.

Post permission

  • If permission is granted to proceed with the judicial review to the full hearing then a further court fee is payable and the judge will set out directions on how the case is due to proceed including any deadlines to provide further evidence.
  • A more detailed response to the claim will normally be prepared by the defendant and any evidence relied on should be provided at the same time.
  • The parties are under a duty to review their position and if the case is no longer required or in fact settles then the court should be advised.
  • The final hearing will be listed and the parties will be asked to prepare an outline of the arguments they intend to make at the final hearing – called skeleton arguments.
  • The claimant (You or your lawyer) will also need to provide the final bundle for the court.
  • The length of the final hearing is dependent upon the complexity of the issues involved. The decision will normally be delivered following the hearing, which may take some weeks. In urgent cases the decision may be given immediately. 

What are the potential outcomes of a successful judicial review?

It is important to note that any remedy is discretionary. This means it is entirely up to the judge to decide whether to make an order – these could include:

  • Quashing Order - Renders the original decision/action/inaction void and the public body will be required to reconsider.
  • Prohibiting Order - Forbids the public body from taking certain action which the court considers unlawful.
  • Mandatory Order - Requires that the public body take certain action.
  • Declaration - Could be a formal statement that a legislative provisions is incompatible with the Human Rights Act 1998 or that a certain provision is to be interpreted in a particular way.
  • Compensation - Damages may be awarded, however, this remedy is rare.  

If you wish to be provided with further information on any of the above, do not hesitate to contact Stephensons’ expert civil liberties team who specialise in the area of judicial review on 0161 696 6159.

How we have helped our clients

  • A claim of judicial review arose from the failure of a social services department (local authority) to assess the needs of a disabled child, despite repeated attempts by a desperate mother. This claim was based upon grounds of illegality (since the local authority failed to complete an assessment required by law) and procedural unfairness.  

  • Another example is a case concerning a local authority’s ongoing failure to re-assess the needs of our client and the decision to refuse to accommodate and provide housing under Section 20 Children Act 1989.

  • Judicial review proceedings were initiated in another case based on the decision of a local authority refusing to undertake a re-assessment of our client, whom we believed was in need of community care services pursuant to Section 47 NHS and Community Care Act 1990. Our client’s care was inadequate and no proper grounds or reasons were provided for the refusal of this service. Furthermore, the decision of the local authority was made despite there being a material change in facts since our client’s first assessment. 

  • Judicial Review proceedings were issued on behalf of a child who would be subject to having two cautions for theft of a bicycle at the age of 11 disclosing on a criminal record certificate for the rest of their life under the law as it stood. The challenge proceeded through the High Court, to Court of Appeal and Supreme Court and lead to the introduction of filtering of minor convictions via a change in the law.

  • Following on from the above case, the team acted for an individual who had two minor convictions on his criminal record from many years ago, but would not have the benefit of filtering because the rules said more than one conviction could not be. This was challenged and found to be unlawful, further amendments were made to the foltering rules to allow more than one minor conviction be filtered.

  • The team have acted on behalf of IPP sentence prisoners and pursued the case to Europe were their sentence was declared to breach Article 5 right to liberty because inadequate provision had been made to allow participation in courses which could show a reduction in risk to allow the parole board to direct release.

  • The team have challenged decisions of regulatory bodies including Ofcom.

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