Introduction - Source of Power
In order to seek for the legality of an action taken by a public body, first, we may need to identify the source of its power. The source of the power provides the standard for the reviewing exercise. Generally the source of the delegated discretion for Public Law will be an enable Act, yet there are cases where it may be an Order in Council issued under the Prerogative.
The fact sheet shows that the (fictitious) Traffic Control Act 2010 was imposed by the Councils, thus we may conclude that the source of the power in this case is by Public Law.
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Amelia, who has been ‘prosecuted for breach of a 15 mph speed limit’, is likely to seek for judicial review on the ground that the decision taken by the Council is unreasonable. She may argue that she was driving through the ‘thinly populated docks area’ where the 2010 Act need not to be imposed. Hence she may also try to seek for quashing order against the prosecution during the application of judicial review.
It has been some time that the basic test for reasonableness in English Administrative Law was driven from the Court of Appeal’s decision in Associated Provincial Picture House Ltd v Wednesbury Corporation (the Wednesbury case).
Lord Green MR stated the authority’s decision might be open to attack because the imposed principle in the case was:
“Not directing itself properly in law; not taking into account relevant considerations, or conversely taking into account irrelevant considerations; acting unreasonably; acting in bad faith; or acting in disregard of public policy”.
Nonetheless his Lordship went on saying that it was important to bear in mind that Parliament had entrusted the local authority with the discretion to impose the law because of the belief of the area’s needs.Thus his Lordship suggested that the courts should not rashly intervened and quashed a condition imposed by such a body, unless such condition really did involve the element of unreasonableness. However, compelling evidence will be required to prove a case in such matter.
Beside the Wednesbury Test, terms such as ‘Illegality’, ‘Irrationality’ and ‘Procedural Impropriety’ are identified by Lord Diplock from Council of Civil Service Unions v Minister for the Civil Service(the GCHQ case).
As mentioned above, proving unreasonableness or irrationality will require heavy evidence provided by the applicant for juridical review. It should be that unless the unreasonableness in the case is so manifested which leave the court no choice but to step in without hesitation.
Additionally the courts will consider not only the merits of the decision but also the ‘necessity and appropriateness’ of their judicial intervention. As Woolf LJ had explained: it was not for the courts to trespass the function of the local authorities simply because they disagreed with the decision. It is important for the courts to consider about the purpose behind the relevant legislation.
Hence, the Seachester Council may defense itself on the ground that although the docks area may truly be ‘thinly populated’ but to certain extent, potential harms may still occur because of high speed driving. In other words, instead of considering only about the population, the main purpose of the 2010 Act is to have safety concern about the traffic issues in such area.
On the other hand, the Council may have drawn a statistic map; and found the necessity to impose a traffic control measures in order to prevent further tragic or dangers. Under such accounts, it may be inappropriate to say that the Council has abused its delegated power and caused illegality.
With the Seachester Council defense, we may come to the conclusion that the court is unlikely to accept the applicant of judicial review made by Amelia.
Other Possible Claim
If Amelia’s claim involved issue such as the breach of her fundamental rights, there may be a possibility that other test beside the Wednesbury Test may be engaged. Nonetheless this is not the case here, thus there is no other alternative claim which Amelia can make.
Bertram may seek judicial review against Ruffborough Council’s decision for not imposing the traffic control measure on where he lives; an area which has ‘very high accident rate’ and required the Council to strictly imposed the law; otherwise irrationality/ unreasonableness will establish.
As we had discussed above for the test of unreasonable/ irrationaland its principles, we had also come across the facts that the courts are reluctant to rely to interfere the decision made by the council. This is because otherwise they will substitute the function and power which the Parliament has entrusted to the public bodies. An example of this test can be seen in the case of Nottinghamshire CC v Sec of State for the Environment. Furthermore Bertram will also be asked to provide strong evidence to support his ground under the Wednesbury Test.
In order to have a more effective claim, Bertram may try to have his argument based on the fact that his Article 8 of Human Rights Act (HRA) 1998 had been breached by the Council’s decision.
Ever since the incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights in the Human Rights Act 1998, the domestic courts began to have a strict application of the test of unreasonableness in cases which involved the issues of the citizen’s fundamental rights. In R v Secretary of State for the Home Department, ex parte Bugdaycay, Lord Bridge said:
“…the court must…be entitled to subject an administrative decision to…more rigorous examination…according to the gravity of the issue which the decision determines. The most fundamental of all human rights is the individual’s right to life and when an administrative decision under challenge is said to be one which may put the applicant’s life at risk, the basis of the decision must surely call for anxious scrutiny.”
Similar statement was expressed by Sir Thomas Bingham MR in R v Ministry of Defense, ex parte Smith.
Bertram may now allege that without the appropriate traffic control, his family or just he will be under no protection against the high traffic accidents; the safety concern of where he lives is doubtful. By law, the public authority should exercise its rights to ensure that interests of ‘national security, public safety are well-maintained and made efficient prevention against crime, disorder for the protection of health, morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others’.
Now, since Bertram has relied his case on the HRA1998, this means that the doctrine of proportionality will be considered by the domestic courts while determining his application of judicial review.
The doctrine of proportionality stated that the action will be unlawful if it is inappropriate in its effect, or relative to what is required. R v Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council, ex parte Hook suggested that English Law had recognized this doctrine for sometime as the offshoot of the unreasonableness test.
Smith and Grady v United Kingdom and Lustig-Prean and Beckett v United Kingdom had became the basis for review when Convention rights were involved. The court found that prohibiting homosexuals to serve in the army forces had constituted a violation of HRA 1998 in the judicial review and had provided no effective domestic remedy in respect of the Convention rights. This was because the threshold set by the domestic courts for proof of irrationality was too high that it did not allow the applicants to gain their remedy.
Furthermore Lord Bingham in A v Secretary of State for the Home Department 2004 said that under Proportionality Test, the courts should consider not just the behavior complained but also, they should also look for another way of proceeding which will not limit the Convention rights.
If the answer is a ‘Yes’ then the behavior may not be proportionate. Nonetheless such wide assessment will involve judges to consider the merits and not just the process which may subsequently form more controversial issues.
Until this stage, we may say that the proportionality doctrine has a lower threshold and it allow a court to balance conflict of interests. Thus if Ruffborough Council wishes to restrict Bertram’s human right then the restriction must be proportionate or no greater than it is necessary to be.
However, House of Lords in R v Home Secretary, ex parte Brind refused to accept the proportionality doctrine as a separate and stand-alone head of judicial review.
Lord Slynn in R (Alconbury Developments Ltd and Others) v Secretary of Stet for the Environmentt expressed his opinion:
“Trying to keep the Wednesbury principle and proportionality in separate compartments seems to me to be unnecessary and confusing.
In Alconbury case and R (Daly) v Secretary of State for the Home Department, it has indicated that the senior judges are like to simplify the law by using just the proportionality doctrine in all judicial review cases.
Nonetheless for other cases in House of Lords, this approach is refused. The Court of Appeal in R (Association of British Civilian Internees Far Eastern Region) v The Secretary of State for Defense pointed out that proportionality is not yet ready to be adopted by the domestic law in cases which does not concern about European Union or the European Convention of Human Rights. Thus the traditional Wednesbury test remained as a correct test.
Despite the fact that the law is still developing and causing some controversies yet if we assume that the judge is willing to accept the proportionality doctrine in Bertram case, we may say that he has a chance of winning his case. This is because based on the arguments which he had mentioned and after considering the true nature or purpose of the 2010 Act, the decision made by Ruffborough Council may be deemed to be unreasonable or disproportion. On the other hand, such decision does violate his Article 8 of HRA 1998.
The 2010 Act clearly stated that the traffic control measure should be imposed on high accidental area. Hence when the Council failed to exercise its power Bertram may argue that it has failed to comply with the express statutory requirements. By logic, if such failure happened, it should be that the Council’s decision will be deemed as ultra vires.
For Bertram’s case, the court will first consider both the general principles of statutory interpretation and the intention of the Parliament in enacting such law. In short, any public authority which has its statutory power exercised in the way which formed contradiction with the Parliament’s intention is going to have its action considered to be ultra vires (R v Pierson).
There is a reasonable and logical ground for Bertram or the court to believe that the nature and purpose for the Parliament to introduce the 2010 Act is to prevent further harm, tragic and increase of the accident rate in traffic. Therefore when the Council failed to comply with such expressed statute term, it is obvious that its act contained illegality.
On the other hand, by taking the account of European Convention on Human Rights when exercising power or making discretion, the public authorities are required to consider about the demands of the Convention Rights. The decision made by the public authorities will not be unlawful only if they are not able to avoid the incompatibility of one or more provisions of primary legislation. Otherwise their actions or decisions would be illegal for not upholding the Convention Rights.
As we have mentioned above, Bertram may argue that the Council’s decision has infringed his Article 8 HRA 1998. Thus if the court find the Council has no compelling defense or its decision has formed contradiction with the Parliament intention, it likely that such decision will be deemed to be defective.
Bertram was expected to be consulted with the Council yet he was not. Again we may say that the Council has failed to comply with the express statutory procedural requirements. As stated above, such failure may constitute ultra vires. Nonetheless we may need to identify if such requirement is mandatory or directory.
Based on the fact sheet, we may say that there is a statutory requirement that the Council should have consulted with Bertram before making its decision and such requirement is considered to be invariably mandatory by the courts (Agricultural, Horticultural and Forestry Industry Training Board v Aylesbury Mushrooms Ltd). The court in the case held that the scheme was invalid, as against the mushroom growers since they were not consulted. However the court in the case did not invalidate the whole scheme.
Thus, if we apply the test of the Agricultural, Horticultural and Forestry Industry Training Board case, we may say that Bertram has a chance in succeeding his claim. Nonetheless the Council may argue that there is no right to be heard since there will be no difference to the outcome. Support of this augment can be found in Glynn v Keele University and Another. In the case, the court refused to invalidate disciplinary action taken in respect of the student concerned, despite the fact that he had been denied a hearing. The court made such decision on the ground that no matter what he would say would be able to change the outcome.
Ruffborough Council may argue that:‘…such bodies as significantly represent local communities…’, as the 2010 Act has stated may have referred to the communities which concern more about the local residents’ live- hood issues/living qualities. In other words, Bertram’s association will less likely to be considered as ‘significantly represent local communities…’.
Nevertheless Bertram may claim that there was legitimate expectation in him towards the Council based on the previous promise or course of dealing. Like the applicant in t he case of AG of Hong Kong v Ng Yuen Shiu, Bertram may argue that he had a legitimate or reasonable expectation to the consultation since the decision made by the Council will eventually affect his interest. On the other hand, similarly with the applicant in Council of Civil Service Unions v Minister for the Civil Service, if there had been regular practice of consultation between the Council and Bertram on matters relating to the impose of legislation in Ruffborough, Bertram will then have a legitimate expectation of being consulted. Hence, when the Council failed to consult with Bertram, we may say that there is a breach of natural justice/legitimate expectation. Such breach may lead to the consequence that the decision made by the Council will be void since it is based on ultra vires. However to determine if a decision is truly ‘void’, the decision will be left with the courts.
For his overall claims, if Bertram’s application against the Council is judicially reviewable, he may seek for mandatory order as remedy. The court will order the Council to fulfill its duties since it addresses wrongful failure to act. In short, the Council will need to draw a designated control area at where Bertram live and where it is suppose to be at Ruffborough. Failure to comply with such order will form as contempt of court and it will be punishable. However if the statutory duties are drafted in a wide and vague terms, the court will not grant the remedy unless the compliance with the order can be supervised.
Or, the order will not be granted only if the Parliament has supplied a more suitable alternative remedy.
If Clark’s application of judicial review is determined under the traditional Wednesbury test as we had discussed earlier, it is likely that he will lose his case.
On the other hand, even though Clark may claim that his Article 8 HRA 1998 has been violated and thus his case should be justified under the proportionality doctrine, yet the doctrine is still controversial and is unlikely to be certainly applied by the English courts. Thereby we will need to seek for an alternation in order to make his claim judicially reviewable.
The enforcement of HRA 1998 has made it becomes unlawful for any public authority to act in anyway which is incompatible with the Convention Rights. Therefore as a public authority is exercising its discretion, it will need to determine if its discretion has form contradiction with the Convention Rights protected by the Act.
Such impact incurred by the Convention rights on the public authorities and the scope of judicial review remains in question but we may still have our expectation based on R v Secretary of State for the Home Department, ex parte Quaquah.
Hence Clark may claim that his fundamental right has now been affected by the designated area created by the Council. Although it may be true that Clark’s interest has been affected by such legislation however if the court does not find the evidence provided by him has the sufficient ground which can compel with his argument, it is likely that Clarke will lose his case.
The actions taken by the public authority can be declared as ultra vires when it has acted on the basis of irrelevant considerations
In short, if the public authority has acted without necessary evidence to justify its decision or it is trying to achieve some hidden aim or goal by using a power not intended for the purpose, we may say that it has acted beyond relevant considerations. The basic theory regarded to this issue is laid down by Lord Esher MR in R v St Pancras Vestry.
It is true that the public authorities will face difficult task of balancing one set of considerations against another and usually the courts are unlikely to substitute the public authorities’ view with its own opinion.
To determine if the administrative action has been legally taken based on the statutory powers, the courts will first consider about the statutory interpretation and the intentions that the Parliament is trying to achieve when certain legislation is being carried out. Therefore if the statutory power has been carried out in the sense which has diverged with any general assumptions regarding to Parliament’s legislative intent, the action is likely to be deemed as ultra vires (R v Pierson).
In Clark’s case, it is likely that the court will find the legislation imposed by the Council is to protect the public from as many traffic tragedies as possible. Between Individual’s self-interest and public policy, we may come to an assumption that the court is likely to guard the public policy rather than blindly favour the interest of an individual.
Clarke claims that the Council allowed the decisions to be taken by Antifume whom received commission to write a report. He may want to challenge the validity of that report.
According to S 101 of the Local Government Act 1972, Parliament has stated that local authorities have very large scale of work ranges and duties. Therefore it is impossible for them not to continue their works with delegation of their functions to committees, officers or even other local authorities. However note that the final decision will still be made by the local authorities, and they reserved the rights to exercise their powers.
Hence the courts may have an indulgent attitude to the delegation of functions by a local authority. In Provident Mutual Life Assurance Association v Derby City Council, the appellant challenged the validity of the notice issued by the respondent authority on the ground that the notice was made by the authority’s Assistant but not the Treasurer. The applicant’s argument was rejected.
Therefore with the decision of Provident Mutual Life Assurance Association case as a guideline, we may come to the conclusion that Clark is likely to lose his claim here. Unless there is significant fault made in the procedural requirement as how it was indicated in R v St Edmundsbury Borough Council, ex parte Walton, otherwise the court will not find the Council’s delegation of power illegal.
Hence, with all the above arguments and discussions, it is unlikely that Clark will win his case. Therefore there will be no remedy available for him.
Dee may seek judicial review against the Council’s decision of to designate no ‘control areas’ just because the Council wants to save money and ‘as a matter of policy’.
Nonetheless the Council may argue about its finance constraints. Generally, a public body must be acting in good faith and to exercise discretion properly. If these two conditions are satisfied, the courts will not intervene.
Alternatively, the court will intervene only if the decision is illogical or suggest willful indifference (In R v North Derbyshire Health Authority, ex parte Fisher).
However there are cases where statutory context should be concerned. When the statute is drawn in wider, more generalized, terms the court may be able to grant an authority some flexibility.As it was stated by Lord Woolf MR in ex parte Help the Aged cased that that once a need is mentioned, yet lack of resources cannot be relied upon as a reason for not providing the necessary accident.
Nevertheless the House of Lords expressed that there were still other ways of providing a reasonable decision. However Lord Browne-Wilkinson said once the reasonableness became narrowed to how a local authority had decided to allocate scare financial resources; the local authority’s decision would be hard to review.
“The court cannot second-guess the local authority in the way in which it spends its limited resources.”
Hence, unless the 2010 Act does further stated that the law must be imposed regardless of the financial state of the local authorities, otherwise there is a possibility that the Council will have the flexibility not to impose the law. Or if the circumstances of the case are similar with R v Gloucestershire, the court will likely to alter the Council’s decision. If we presume that the court has decided to make an intervention, mandatory order may be granted as the remedy of Dee’s claim.
On the other hand, when any controversial budget decision involves one’s fundamental human rights, the applicant could now claim that the decision is unlawful. Hence Dee may claim that the decision will breach her Article 8 HRA 1998. With the similar theory stated in Question two, if the court found that the decision is inappropriate and does cause violation of Dee’s fundamental right, it is likely that her applicable will be judicially reviewable and mandatory order will be granted as the remedy.
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