Judicial Review - taking the council or government to court
Judicial review is a procedure that allows an individual or organization to challenge the legality of a decision or law made by a public body. Grounds for judicial review include illegality, irrationality and unfairness. A claimant must also demonstrate that he has sufficient interest or standing to challenge the decision. Claims for judicial review take place at the Administrative Court, which sits in London, Birmingham, Cardiff, Leeds and Manchester. Part 54 of the Civil Procedure Rules contain the relevant procedures.
The Ministry of Justice have published a "Pre-Action Protocol for Judicial Review" and this stresses that making a claim for judicial review is a last resort. For this reason, a claimant must exhaust all suitable alternative remedies, before applying for judicial review. For example, he must follow any relevant internal complaints procedures.
Other options include alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation. In all cases, a claimant must write a pre-action letter to the defendant, setting out the substance of his claim. A judge may refuse to hear the judicial review claim if he believes that the claimant has not exhausted all possible options.
According to Rule 54.5(1) of the Civil Procedure Rules, a claimant must make his claim for judicial review promptly and within three months of the original decision. The Administrative Court sits in different locations and the claimant chooses the jurisdiction in the region where he has the closest connection.
Once the claimant has filed his claim on the appropriate form, together with supporting documents, the judge makes a preliminary decision as to whether the case should proceed to a full hearing. This is known as the permission stage and its aim is to filter out any claims that have no prospect of success. The judge may either dismiss the claim, or rule that it can proceed to a full hearing.
Prior to the full hearing, the parties must submit "skeleton arguments" to the court, so that the judge has an opportunity to acquaint himself with the facts of the case. At the full hearing, the parties make additional oral arguments before the judge. If relevant, witnesses may also give evidence. After hearing all the evidence, the judge makes his decision.
All claimants pay a fee to file an application for the permission stage, and a further fee for a full hearing. Most claimants also instruct lawyers to represent them in court. In most cases, the unsuccessful party to the action must also pay the costs of the other party, although the judge has discretion to award costs as he sees fit.
Costs are a dangerous beast and you must not underestimate the implications losing can have on your liability to pay costs to your opponent. We will evaluate your chances of success free of charge so don't rush off to start an action without professional advice from a lawyer with JAFLAS.
Fee remission may be available if you are on a low income or benefits.
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