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“No application for judicial review shall be made unless the leave of the High Court has been obtained in accordance with rules of court; and the court shall not grant leave to make such an application unless it considers that the applicant has a sufficient interest in the matter to which the application relates.” s.31 (3) Senior Courts Act 1981

  • So, only those who have a ‘sufficient interest’ in a public body’s decision will be able to judicially review it
  • This section also shows that we do not have a right to judicial review. Instead, we have a right to seek permission from the High Court for judicial review where we have sufficient interest in the matter

The test of ‘sufficient interest’ is used to determine standing in the common law

  • But is ‘sufficient interest’ really a test?
  • By legislating in such vague and broad terms, the Senior Courts Act is leaving the matter for the courts i.e. the court decides whether a particular individual has sufficient interest
  • Consequently a body of case law has emerged on ‘sufficient interest’…

R v IRC, ex parte National Federation of Self-Employed and Small Businesses [1982] AC 617

Some ‘Fleet Street casuals’ (i.e. newspaper workers), of which there were 6,000 working on newspapers, regularly gave false names and addresses when taking payment for their casual work, such that they might evade tax.

The Inland Revenue sought to deduct tax at source, or otherwise secure taxes, by introducing new processes. Where Fleet Street cooperated, it would offer an amnesty in respect of historical tax claims.

  • In other words, the tax man said they would make no actions for previous non payment of taxes but said they should from now on

A federation representing small businesses (which had nothing to do with the Fleet Street Casuals) objected to the amnesty and sought judicial review.

It was held, on appeal, that they did not have sufficient interest in the decision to grant an amnesty as they were no more than a interest group or body of taxpayers enquiring into the tax affairs of others.

  • So they did not have standing

It may be appropriate for the court to treat standing requirements not as a preliminary question (as the High Court did in this case), but alongside the legal and factual context to the case. This approach was seen in World Development Movement…

R v Foreign Secretary, ex parte World Development Movement [1995] 1 WLR 386

Acting under powers conferred by the Overseas Development and Cooperation Act 1980, the Foreign Secretary sought to provide £195m in aid to the Malaysian Government to support the building of a hydroelectric dam. By any sensible economic assessment (including an official assessment carried out by an auditor), the dam was a “bad buy,” because electricity generation by the dam would be so expensive it would actually lead to increased energy costs for Malaysians.

The World Development Movement, who campaigns for more and better aid (i.e. they are an interest group), sought to challenge the decision to award aid to the dam-building project on the grounds that the money could be better spent elsewhere - and indeed, that the funding of the dam would actually cause Malaysians harm.

It was held that the legal and factual context of the challenge was necessary in determining standing i.e. whether or not World Development Movement could judicially review the decision

  • In this case, then, World Development Movement had sufficient interest in the matter having regard to their work; the absence of an alternative challenger and the significance of the issue; and the prominence of WDM in the field of foreign aid

The case advances a real possibility that pressure groups, NGOs, and lobbyists might has sufficient interest in a public decision and thus standing to bring a claim.

  • One does not have to be directly affected by a decision!

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R v Inspectorate of Pollution, ex parte Greenpeace No.2 [1994] 4 All ER 329

A public body wanted to vary the licence given to a company to process radioactive waste.

Greenpeace was granted standing because it was a “well-known campaigning organisation which has as its prime object the protection of the natural environment.” (per Otton J)

Standing under the Human Rights Act

Section 7(1) HRA requires claims brought under s.6 to be brought by someone who “is (or would be) a victim of the unlawful act.”

This is a narrower threshold to meet than ‘sufficient interest.’

The test is comparable to the ECtHR requirements; the claimant must be “directly affected” by the decision (Klass v Germany (1978))

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