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Law Notes Administrative Law Notes

Review Of Discretion Notes

Updated Review Of Discretion Notes

Administrative Law Notes

Administrative Law

Approximately 1167 pages

Administrative Law notes fully updated for recent exams at Oxford and Cambridge. These notes cover all the major LLB aspects and so are perfect for anyone doing an LLB in the UK or a great supplement for those doing LLBs abroad, whether that be in Ireland, Canada, Hong Kong or Malaysia (University of London). These notes were formed directly from a reading of the cases and main texts and are vigorous, concise and very well written. Everything is conveniently split up by topic as you can see by th...

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Review of Discretion

Once a Court has established its jurisdiction – i.e. that it can review a decision – the next question is how it will do this, by what measure the decision will be scrutinised and to what extent the Court is able to intervene.

  • Further, raises the issue of what grounds will permit a Court to quash an administrative decision.

This area of review concerns, chronologically, the end of the decision-making process – it considers the actual decision that was made, rather than what precedes it.

  • As such, this raises the most potent issues of institutional competence and the greatest contention in the review/appeal distinction.

Irrationality: Wednesbury

Jurisdiction and rationality review:

It appears that, during the early case law, the Courts treated the basis for rationality review as the ultra vires principle.

  • Kruse v Johnson: ‘if [unreasonable] court might well say, ‘Parliament never intended to give authority to make such rules; they are unreasonable and ultra vires’.

  • Wednesbury: ‘… the power of the court to interfere is… not as an appellate authority… but as a judicial authority which is concerned, and concerned only, to see whether the local authority have contravened the law by acting in excess of the powers which Parliament has confided in them.’

This highlights the difficulty in distinguishing between (i) jurisdiction, and (ii) review of discretion.

  • To say that a decision is so severely irrational as to place it outside the jurisdiction of the public body is to collapse the distinction.

    • It would mean that jurisdiction is defined so as to exclude decisions which are severely irrational in terms of substance.

  • Padfield v Maff: ‘in practice [jurisdiction and review] merge into one another and ultimately it becomes a question whether for one reason or another the Minister has acted unlawfully in the sense of misdirecting himself in law…’

In this respect, the two shade into each other – can say either that the authority lacked jurisdiction, or that (although jurisdictional) the decision was deficient on rationality review.

  • Rationality can best be seen as a last resort; the final stage of review.

Two senses of Wednesbury:

Though the unreasonableness standard is usually the focus when considering Wednesbury review, there are actually two senses to the test:

  1. Unreasonableness:

  • Wednesbury states that a Court can review where a public body reaches a decision which is so unreasonable that no reasonable authority could ever have come to it.

  • Lord Greene’s example was the dismissal of an employee for having red hair.

  • Although narrow, this is still a merits-based evaluation of the decision.

    • Kavanagh: the decision is premised on the view that the court’s intervention is suspect, and a practice requiring considerable justification.

  1. Irrelevance:

  • The Court can check to see if the authority considered things that it should not have done (irrelevant factors), or refused to take account of matter which they ought to have considered.

  • This is best considered as a prior, separate ground.

  1. The unreasonableness standard:

Lord Diplock in GCHQ, adding an important qualification, refined the test: the decision maker must understand correctly the law that regulates his decision-making and must give effect to it.

  • This requirement seems to be a proposition about staying in jurisdiction.

  • He also reformulated the main test slightly, so that the decision must be ‘so outrageous in its defiance of logic or of accepted moral standards that no sensible person who had applied his mind to the question to be decided could ever have arrived at it.’

    • Using such a high threshold, the concerns of the Court interfering are lessened somewhat.

  • Concerned whether the Royal Prerogative was subject to judicial review.

  • It is notable that no reasonable ‘authority’ could ever have come to the decision, while GCHQ refers to a reasonable ‘person’.

    • It may be that authorities are entitled to a wide range of choices based on their roles as setting policy.

It was held that reviewability depended on the power’s nature, not its source.

  • However, despite this, the decision that national security concerns are non-justiciable.

    • ‘I see no reason why simply because a decision-making power is derived from a common law and not a statutory source, it should for that reason only be immunes from judicial review’.

Two particular criticisms are aimed at the test:

  1. It appears monolithic, with a singled, fixed standard.

  • However, it is not a fixed standard – it is dependent on the considerations at hand.

  • Ex p Smith: ‘the greater the policy content of a decision, and the more remote the subject matter of a decision from ordinary judicial experience, the more hesitant the court must necessarily be in holding a decision to be irrational.’

  • In ECtHR, it was made clear that the previous unreasonableness test was simply unsuitable for the HR context, not affording them enough protection.

  1. The standard looks extremely high.

  • Due to the above, can be lower than the original test.

The above have been seen particularly in the context of human rights, as in ex p Brind. It is notable that this test returns to considering reasonableness from the point of view of an authority, rather than a person.

  1. There was a lesser standard.

  • The Court must inquire as to whether a reasonable Secretary of State could reasonable have made the primary decision being challenged.

  1. Presumed that only a compelling public interest would justify the invasion of the right.

  • As such, the default position is not deferential, and shows a willingness of the common law to protect human rights.

However, it is uncertain whether these can be seen as adaptions?

  • Craig argues that ‘the idea that heightened scrutiny in cases concerning rights can be seen simply as a variant of the original Wednesbury test is problematic in both linguistic and conceptual terms.’

  • The whole point of the tests is to be a single, very high test – as such, ...

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