Skip to main content

Judicial Review

This website has been updated, and you are viewing an outdated page. If you're seeing this message, you have not been automatically redirected to the new site. Please click here to go there now. Please also update your bookmarks.

This section contains information and guidance about judicial review in England and Wales. For initial information about Scotland, please click here, and for Northern Ireland, please click here.

The aim of this page is to provide a resource for organisations, individuals or groups who want to understand judicial review with with a view to making a legal challenge against the public spending cuts.

The information is split into the following sections:

1. What is judicial review?

2. Who can bring a claim for judicial review?

3. Lawyers and funding

4. Using judicial review as a campaigning and lobbying tool

5. Proposed changes to judicial review

1. What is judicial review?

Judicial review is the process used by courts to examine the decisions made by public bodies, to make sure that they are lawful and fair. It can only be used when there is no other way to effectively challenge a decision. For example, if there is an appropriate complaints procedure in place, or if there is a stautory right of appeal, the court is not likely to hear an application for judicial review.

Public bodies whose decisions may be challenged include:

  • Local councils
  • Government ministers and departments
  • Local NHS trusts
  • School governors' boards
  • Magistrates, cornoners and county courts
  • Some tribunals
  • Prison governors

General guides to judicial review

Organisation Resource Name
Leigh Day Judicial Review: A Quick and Easy Guide
Public Law Project An Introduction to Judical Review
Practical Law Judicial Review: A Quick Guide

2. Who can bring a claim for judicial review?

A claim may be brought by individuals, groups or organisations. To bring a claim, you must show that you have ‘sufficient interest.’ This is known as legal standing. There are many ways that claimants can demonstrate ‘sufficient interest.’ For example, an individual may have sufficient interest if the decision is taken by the local council in the area in which they live. These kinds of local claims may also be brought on behalf of affected people by third parties, such as interest groups or charities.

Further-reaching decisions may be challenged if the claimant(s) can demonstrate that there is a public interest in challenging the decision. It is important to file for judicial review as quickly as possible, or the court may refuse permission to bring the claim.

Useful guides for bringing a claim

Organisation Resource Name
Public Law Project Guide to Judicial Review Procedure 
Public Law Project Guide to Grounds for Judicial Review
Public Law Project Third Party Interventions: A Practical Guide
House of Commons Judicial Review: A Short Guide to Claims in the Administrative Court

3. Lawyers and funding

It is important to get specialist legal advice when considering judicial review, as the procedure is costly and decisions can have an impact on many people.

Legal aid

Individuals may apply for public funding, or legal aid, which is overseen by the Legal Aid Agency. Legal aid is not available for organisations.

Individuals represented by legal aid lawyers have some protection against costs orders if they lose their case. A costs order is when the court orders that you must pay the legal fees of the other party when you lose a case. The amount is decided by the court.

The government has recently proposed changes to limit legal aid for judicial review. For information, please click here to go to section 5.

General guides to legal aid

Organisation Resource Name
Legal aid
Citizens Advice Bureau Help with legal costs - legal aid

Alternatives to legal aid

Organisations may be able to fund judicial review by using Conditional Fee Agreements (CFAs) or Protective Costs Orders (PCOs). For more information, see the Public Law Project guide, available here.

Pro bono, or free help from legal practitioners may be available. For example, see the Bar Pro Bono Unit for more information.

4. Using judicial review as a campaigning and lobbying tool

Judicial review can be an important tool for campaigns and interest groups. It is a useful way of challenging public authorities and bringing them to account.

Examples of campaigns that have successfully used judicial review

The following is a list of examples of where judicial review has been used as a tool to fight campaigns. The case summaries for these campaigns can be found here.

Campaign Action
Independent Living Fund Challenged a decision by the DWP to close the Independent Living Fund for disabled people (2013).
Building Schools for the Future Challenged a decision to stop school building projects.
Save Southall Black Sisters Challenged a decision by Ealing Council to withdraw funding for their organisation, which provided services for Asian and Afro-Caribbean women.

Further information

A good example of a guide for using judicial review for lobbying is one by Disability Rights UK: Using the Law to Fight Cuts to Disabled People’s Services, available here.

The Public Law Project has a useful guide to strategic litigation for individuals and community groups, including judicial review and other public law challenges. This resource is available here.

For information about using legislation to challenge decisions by public bodies, please click here.

5. Proposed changes to judicial review

The government has proposed some changes to judicial review, to limit the number of claims that can be brought. Information about these proposals can be found here and here.

Currently, claimants wishing to make an application for judicial review must show ‘sufficient interest’ in bringing a claim.

Under the proposals, claimants would be restricted to those that could show a ‘direct and tangible interest.’ This would severely limit the capacity of interest groups and charities to bring claims on behalf of people affected by unfair decisions.

There are also some proposed changes to legal aid for judicial review. Information about these proposals can be found here. For a brief outline of legal aid for judicial review proceedings, click here for a fact sheet by Irwin Mitchell.

Blogs and websites which monitor the proposed changes for judicial review and legal aid:

Below are examples of blog posts and articles on websites, which discuss and analyse the potential impact of proposed reforms to judicial review.

Organisation/Website Resource Resource Description
Public Law for Everyone Mark Elliott: Baroness Hale on the value of public-interest standing in judicial review
Blog post discussing the proposed limits to third party interventions.
Public Law for Everyone Mark Elliott: Judicial Review Reform (Again)  Blog post discussing the latest reform plans.
UK Constitutional Law Group Varda Bondy and Maurice Sunkin: How Many JRs are too many? An evidence based response to ‘Judicial Review: Proposals for Further Reform’ Blog post criticising the government’s proposed changes to judicial review.
UK Human Rights Blog Mark Elliott: Government pressing ahead with (most of) its proposals to restrict access to judicial review
Blog post outlining and criticising the proposals to reform judicial review.
UK Human Rights Blog Mark Elliott: Standing and judicial review - why we all have a “direct interest” in government according to law Blog post discussing the proposed “direct interest” requirement for judicial review claims.
Third Sector David Ainsworth: Proposed changes to judicial review are a ‘full-frontal attack on charity campaigning’ Article discussing the impact of the proposed changes on charity campaigning.
Financial Times Blog David Allen Green: Why judicial review matters, and why Grayling’s attack on it is wrong-headed Blog post highlighting the importance of judicial review and criticising the proposed reform.