Helping you understand Welsh law

What is judicial review?

Judicial review is a procedure which allows a person affected by a public authority’s decision, action or omission to apply to the High Court (referred to as “the Court” in this guidance) for relief (known as a remedy) from the effects of that decision, action or omission. It is a mechanism that allows the Court to hold decision-makers to account by ensuring that they act reasonably, follow proper procedure, and otherwise act within the law. The Court will only agree to award relief where it considers that one or more recognised grounds for judicial review are made out. The majority of these grounds have been developed over time by the courts (rather than being set out in legislation) and are known as the ‘common law’ grounds of judicial review. This document provides guidance on these common law grounds of judicial review and the criteria that must be satisfied before the grounds apply.

The judicial review procedure does not allow the Court to award relief from a particular decision or act just because it disagrees with the merits of the original decision, and it cannot substitute its own decision for the original (which a court has the power to do in appeal cases). Instead, in judicial review proceedings, the Court can only award relief where the decision-maker is acting outside of its powers or is abusing its powers. It is however recognised that the Court has broad discretion when considering judicial review applications which on occasion may lead to a blurring of the lines between reviewing a decision’s legality and its merits.

The Court’s power to hear judicial review applications is set out in section 31 of the Senior Courts Act 1981. The section provides that applications may be made to the Court for one or more forms of relief, including the quashing of the original decision (i.e. the Court making the original decision void), the granting of an injunction to prevent a decision-maker from making a particular decision, or the awarding of damages. All remedies are at the Court’s discretion – the Court alone decides which remedies, if any, to grant.

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