Amenability to Judicial Review

August 29th, 2018

In R (Ames) v Lord Chancellor (2018) EWHC 2250 (Admin) a Divisional Court (Holroyde LJ and Green J) revisited the issue of when a public law function is being exercised with can properly be the subject of judicial view. The Defendant contended that the challenged decision was made at the conclusion of a course of negotiation of a contract and lacked any public law element. Following a review of the authorities, the Court, at paragraph 55, derived the following principles:-

“First, there is no universal test of when a decision will have a sufficient public law element to make it amenable to judicial review. It is a question of degree. Secondly, in deciding whether a particular impugned decision is amenable to judicial review, the court must have regard not only to the nature, context and consequences of the decision, but also to the grounds on which the decision is challenged. There is, we think, a risk of an element of circularity in this approach: to an extent, in deciding whether the decision is amenable to judicial review, the court is looking to the merits of the claim for judicial review which the claimant wishes to put forward. Nonetheless, the nature of the challenge may shed light on the extent to which the decision is of a public rather than a private nature. Thirdly, the fact that the decision is made by a public body exercising a statutory power will not in itself be a conclusive indication that there is a sufficient public law element: a government body may negotiate commercial contracts without inevitably becoming subject to judicial review. Fourthly, and conversely, the fact that the challenged decision relates to payments to be made by a public authority pursuant to a contract will not in itself be a conclusive indication that there is no sufficient public law element. Fifthly, it will be necessary to consider whether the challenged decision is one which is necessarily involved in the performance of a public function, or is merely incidental or supplementary to a public function. Sixthly, if the decision does not have a sufficient public law element to make it amenable to judicial review, the fact that the aggrieved party has no other avenue of appeal is not a reason for treating the decision as if it were public law decision.”

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