A Judicial Review is the vehicle by which the decisions of public authorities of all descriptions (including the government) can be challenged to establish their legality and whether the principles of public law have been complied with. The current on-going crisis that has arisen due to the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a raft of actions by public bodies that have had a widespread impact across the country. The speed that the pandemic has taken hold has left little time for measured well-thought-out decisions. This, in turn, may result in those affected deciding to mount a challenge in the shape of a Judicial Review.
The grounds for a Judicial Review are broadly:
- A public body illegally acting outside the powers
- The Irrationality of a decision or lack of proportionality
- Procedural unfairness or bias
An individual or community group must be able to demonstrate that they have a direct connection with the issue at hand and will be or have been affected by the consequences of the decision. A decision to apply for a Judicial Review must be taken and acted upon as quickly as possible. As far as a challenge to planning decisions are concerned the period of time is six weeks from the time the planning decision was taken. Non-planning decisions are encouraged to be prompt and no longer than three months after the event.
It will be necessary to have the assistance of an administrative lawyer with the expertise to guide you through the preliminary steps required as well as advice and assistance at a full hearing:
- pre-action protocol letter (PAP letter),
- the submission of the claim form,
- the receipt of the defence,
- the review by a judge as to the merits of the claim,
- The full hearing.
Fernanda Stefani, an expert administrative lawyer, commented "it must be remembered that even after the review by a judge as to the merit of the claim there is no guarantee that the decision will be in favour of the applicant. In the recent case involving the parents of Harry Dunn who sought to establish the question of whether diplomatic immunity extended to the woman who struck and killed their son whilst driving on the wrong side of the road, the judges relied on the Vienna convention on diplomatic relations and decision went against them. However, there is a provision enabling the opportunity to appeal, (Harry Dunn's parents have been granted permission). Usually, an application to appeal has to be made directly to the Court of Appeal."
The assuming, as is the general rule, that in order to bring an appeal an application has to be made to the Court of Appeal. The process must be initiated quickly lodging an Appellant's Notice within 21 days. The application must be seen to have some potential for success. A skeleton argument and full documentation in support of the application must follow shortly. If permission is granted no new factual evidence is permitted, however in some instances it is possible to file additional evidence. Permission to appeal could be taken as a favourable indication.
An individual or group of individuals who believe that a Judicial Review is called for following a decision by a public body will be able to have a decision relatively quickly as the whole process is faster than some other court procedures. The lawyers in the Giambrone administrative law team have extensive experience in managing Judicial Reviews.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.