Legal Challenges To UK Public Bodies: A Quick Guide

Author:Mr Gordon Downie
Profession:Shepherd and Wedderburn LLP

Public bodies in the UK (government departments, regulators, local authorities etc.) are legally accountable for the decisions that they make. But what does that mean in practical terms to someone looking to raise a legal challenge to a particular decision? This short blog post provides some very high level guidance in FAQ form.

Q. If I think a decision is wrong, am I able to raise a legal challenge against it?

A. Maybe. In some cases, legislation may lay down a specific right for those affected by particular decisions to request a review or to appeal (a statutory challenge). And in cases where there is no such right laid down in legislation, the courts have power to review decisions as a last resort (a judicial review or JR).

Q. What should I do if I think I might be able to bring a statutory challenge?

A. Where you have a right to bring a statutory challenge against a decision, it is normally the duty of the decision-maker to make you aware of your right to do so when notifying the decision to you. It is very important to check the requirements for bringing a statutory challenge, e.g., any applicable time limits or notices that need to be filed.

Q. If I don't bring a statutory challenge, can I bring a judicial review?

A. It depends. First, since judicial review is a remedy of last resort, you cannot generally bring a JR if you have (or had) a right to bring a statutory challenge. Second, even if you have no alternatives available, you may not be eligible to bring a JR (e.g., because you are not sufficiently affected by the decision, or you have been too slow in bringing your challenge). Finally, JR is only available to correct errors of law or breaches of fundamental rights and not to 'second guess'...

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