A guide to Judicial Review

The CrowdJustice Team

posted on 29 Feb 2024

What is a judicial review?

Public bodies make decisions every day which affect the rights of individuals. There are many different types of public body in the UK, including local councils, local education authorities, government departments and even the NHS.

Public bodies must act fairly and lawfully – if they don’t, you can hold them accountable through a judicial review.

A judicial review is a legal challenge to how a decision has been made by a public body, rather than whether that decision was right or wrong.

Examples of Judicial Reviews funded on CrowdJustice:

Save Our Safer Street Campaign: Residents of Tower Hamlets, East London, are coming together to challenge the decision of the local mayor to remove measures to tackle traffic in the neighbourhood.

Planning challenge to the Bibby Barge: A local councillor is challenging the decision to house 500+ asylum seekers on a barge in Dorset. She says that “containing people on the barge is an inhumane way to treat those fleeing from war.”


When can I bring a judicial review?

You need to move fast if you want to bring a judicial review because they are subject to strict time restrictions. 

Rules require you bring your claim “promptly”, usually within three months after the decision you’re challenging was made, but this can vary. For planning cases, this drops to just six weeks.

You should speak to a lawyer as soon as possible or else you may run out of time. If you’re not sure how to find and instruct a solicitor you can read more in our guide to finding a solicitor.

There are other ways to challenge a public body’s decision, including complaints procedures and ombudsman schemes. These must be done before you can bring a judicial review because you need to show the court that you don’t have an alternative remedy. 

This is because a judicial review is a “remedy of last resort”. A lawyer can advise you on whether there are any suitable alternatives based on the facts of your case and what you’re trying to achieve. 


Is my issue suitable for judicial review?

Whether you can bring a judicial review, and on what grounds, is something which you’ll need to get professional advice from a lawyer about as it is a complex area of law.

However, the following three questions will give you an initial idea of whether you may be able to bring a judicial review:

1) Has there been a decision, act or omission? 

You cannot bring a general complaint - you have to identify a specific decision, act or omission by a public body which you want to challenge.

2) Are you the right person to bring the challenge?

To bring a challenge you need to have “sufficient interest” in the case. This means you must have been directly affected by the decision, act or omission. 

This is called having “legal standing”. In some circumstances, pressure and public interest groups can also bring judicial reviews on behalf of the people and interests they represent.

3) Do you have “grounds” for a judicial review? 

Courts will only review a decision if there was an error in how it was made and that error must fall into at least one of four categories of legal error. These categories are called “grounds for judicial review” and are:

  • Illegality - this is when the decision maker:

    • Makes a decision they do not have the authority to make

    • Incorrectly applies the law

    • Doesn’t use the discretion they have been given. For example, where a body applies a blanket policy to decisions that are meant to be made on an individual basis

    • Delegates decisions for which they are meant to be responsible

    • Fails to gather all the information they need to make a decision

    • Takes into account irrelevant considerations, or ignores relevant considerations

  • Procedural unfairness - this is when the decision maker:

    • Doesn’t follow a procedure they are legally obliged to follow

    • Makes a decision where there is a risk of bias, because of a conflict of interest

    • Breaches the requirements for a fair hearing, for example a right to know the evidence and a right to legal representation

    • Abuses their power in some way

  • Irrationality - this is when the decision maker acts in a way that no reasonable decision maker would consider justifiable. The threshold for a decision being irrational is very high and so often this ground is used with others. 

  • Disproportionality - If your case involves human rights, the courts mayl also look to see whether the interference by the public body with your rights is proportionate. This means that the public body has to balance the importance of protecting your individual rights on the one hand, with the general interests of the public and the legitimate aim of the State on the other.


Steps in the judicial review process 

Step 1: Find a solicitor

The first step in bringing a judicial review is finding and instructing a solicitor. They will formulate your legal argument and advise you on the procedure. If you don't know how to find and instruct a solicitor, you can read more in our guide.

Your solicitor will also help you find a barrister who will present your arguments to a judge if you proceed to a court hearing. It’s worth noting that thousands of judicial review cases are resolved each year in favour of the claimant before ending up in court. 

Step 2: Collect relevant evidence and documents.

You will need to collect any relevant information and evidence to support your challenge including any correspondence between you and the public body, a copy of the decision notice, a summary of your history with the public body and a timeline of events. A solicitor will be able to advise you on exactly what details you will need.

Step 3: Complying with the “pre-action protocol”

In the vast majority of judicial reviews the parties must comply with the “pre-action protocol”. This means as the claimant you must send a “letter before action” to the public body setting out your case and giving them a chance to explain their actions or change their decision before filing your claim in court. Again, your solicitor will help you to write this letter.

Step 4: Applying to the court for permission to bring a judicial review.

Unlike other types of court cases, in a judicial review you need to get “permission” from the court in order to bring a judicial review. 

This means that a lot of the work and costs on your case are front-loaded - you need to get your case together to convince the judge that it has enough merit to proceed to a full hearing. 

An application for permission will include a claim form, witness statements and a document outlining your grounds. The judge will typically make a decision based on the documents rather than requiring everyone to attend court in person. 

Step 5: The full hearing

If you succeed in getting permission, the judge will make directions on timing and next steps including filing evidence. The full hearing will usually take place a few months after evidence has been submitted by the other parties, however in some cases there may be a significant wait before the hearing is scheduled.

A few weeks before the scheduled hearing date, the barristers for both sides will submit a summary of their legal case. At the hearing, the barristers will present the arguments and evidence. The hearing itself will not usually take more than three days, and is often completed within one day.

Step 6: The decision

The judge might give an oral judgment immediately after the hearing. Alternatively, the judge may hand down the decision in writing shortly after the hearing - this will explain the decision in more detail.

The decision will lay out the action the public body has to take to correct the decision making procedure that the court has ruled as unlawful.

Step 7: Appeal

If you’re unhappy with the result, you may be able to appeal the court’s decision. Your lawyer will advise you on if this option is available to you, bearing in mind factors such as costs and the likelihood of it being successful. 


How much does taking a judicial review cost?

It is difficult to predict how much a judicial review will cost, as this depends on the complexity and facts of your case. Read our guide on how to pay for your legal case here.

You will have to pay for your lawyers’ fees and, if you file your claim, you can become liable for the other side’s costs if you lose. Your lawyer will be able to provide you with an estimated costs breakdown as well as the potential liability if you were to lose the case at an early stage.

Because decisions by public bodies in the UK often affect a large group of people, recently many judicial reviews have benefitted from using CrowdJustice to raise funds via crowdfunding.

Funds raised on CrowdJustice are transferred directly to your lawyer’s account on your behalf, which means you don’t have to handle the administration of payments or deal with the compliance that goes with legal cases and lawyers’ accounts. It also means everyone donating to your case knows the funds are being used for the legal work.

We hope you’re found this guide a useful resource when thinking about starting a judicial review claim. If you have any comments, questions or feedback, you can email us at [email protected].

Please note that this guide is not legal advice - always consult your lawyer before engaging in legal action.