Judicial review is a procedure that allows persons affected by a public authority’s decision or act to apply to the High Court for relief from that decision or act. Relief can only be granted if one or more grounds of review apply. These grounds of review, known as ‘common law’ grounds of review, have been developed over time by the courts, and are not set out in legislation.
A public authority’s decisions or acts may only be challenged by judicial review if they are made in relation to the exercise of a ‘public function’. The Court will consider various factors in determining whether the decision or act relates to a public function, including the source of the power being exercised and the nature of the public authority’s activities, including its funding and whether its decisions are binding.
The Court has a broad discretion in deciding what constitutes a reviewable decision. Generally, it takes a broad interpretation.
In addition to judicial review on common law grounds, legislation may provide for particular grounds of judicial review. For example, the Human Rights Act 1998 sets out that ‘public authorities’ must not act incompatibly with the European Convention on Human Rights, and that the victim of a public authority’s unlawful act may apply to the courts for a review of the legality of the public authority’s actions.