Q&As

What is Wednesbury unreasonableness?

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Published on LexisPSL on 21/03/2019

The following Public Law Q&A provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • What is Wednesbury unreasonableness?
  • Public authorities generally
  • Grounds for judicial review

What is Wednesbury unreasonableness?

Public authorities generally

Public authorities are constrained in their actions as they are required to act in accordance with their statutory objectives and duties. As Lord Templeman indicated in Hazell v Hammersmith and Fulham LBC:

‘…a local authority, although democratically elected and representative of the area, is not a sovereign body and can only do such things as are expressly or impliedly authorised by Parliament.’

Judicial review is a process, allowed for under CPR 54.1, by which the exercise of public functions is monitored and which makes the public authority accountable for their decisions, acts and omissions in the event that they have acted unreasonably and/or outside of their power. The key pre-requisites of a judicial review are that the defendant is a public authority and the action complained of has occurred when exercising a function public in nature. The complainant must have a sufficient interest in the matter, however, this test is applied in a liberal manner, and only so-called prerogative remedies are available (a quashing order, a prohibiting order or a mandatory order). Finally, the court is only able to review the quality and the decision-making process, not the substance of the decision, on the grounds error of law or the error of fact.

Grounds for judicial review

In the case of Council for Civil Service Unions v Minister for the Civil Service, Lord

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