Errors of Law and Fact cases

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R (A) v Croydon LBC [2009] UKSC 8

Facts: Two claimants from Afghanistan and Libya sought asylum in the UK. Both asserted that they were under the age of 18, but did not have the necessary paperwork to prove it. The local authorities (Croydon and Lambeth) deemed them to be 18 years or over, thus relinquishing them of certain statutory responsibilities to provide accommodation under the Children Act 1989 (the 1989 act requires accommodation to be provided to local children – so here a question of fact has become jurisdictional)

  • A doctor assessed the claimants to be 15 and 17 years old—but both local authorities refused to accept this and relied instead on their own assessment as to their age

Held: In judicial review proceedings, the Administrative Court rejected the claim on the preliminary issue of whether the court was entitled to review the authorities’ determination of fact (the age of the claimants). On appeal to the Court of Appeal, the decision of the Administrative Court was affirmed

On appeal to the House of Lords, the claimants’ appeal was allowed

  • Although the determination of the claimants’ ages were questions of fact, they were facts precedent to the local authorities’ jurisdiction and were therefore ultimately subject to scrutiny by the Administrative Court in judicial review.

Ex parte South Yorkshire Transport [1993] 1 WLR 23

Facts: The Monopolies and Mergers Commission deemed the provision of bus services in South Yorkshire as an enterprise covering ‘a substantial part of the United Kingdom,’ even though South Yorkshire represents only 1.65% of the UK and 3.2% of the population

Held: On appeal to the House of Lords, it was held that the Commission were entitled to make this determination of fact

R v Hillingdon LBC, ex parte Puhlhofer [1986] AC 484

Facts: A family of four were living in one room of a guesthouse where only breakfast was provided, with no cooking or laundry facilities. The family applied for accommodation from the local authority under the Housing (Homeless Persons) Act 1977. The local authority refused to provide it as they did not consider the family to be ‘homeless’ under the terms of the Act, as they were currently in accommodation.

  • The family argued they were homeless as the accommodation was not suitable for them. However, whether or not someone is ‘homeless’ is clearly a question of fact

Held: In Judicial review proceeding, the family were successful and were granted relief to the effect that the local authority were under a duty to provide accommodation appropriate to the needs of the family. However, on appeal to the Court of Appeal (and affirmed by the House of Lords), the court said that they were not ‘homeless’ and their current accommodation was fine

  • Whether the family were enjoying ‘accommodation’ under the terms of the Act was a question of fact. And Parliament, in enacting the 1977 Act, entrusted the local authority with that determination of fact; it was not open to the Administrative Court to substitute its assessment as to the facts for those of the local authority.
  • In other words, it is not generally acceptable open to the Administrative Court to correct errors of fact in judicial review proceedings

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R v Hull University Visitor, ex parte Page [1993] AC 682

Facts: Page worked as a lecturer at Hull for over 30 years. Under the university’s statutes, lecturers could only be dismissed from their job for ‘good cause’ or upon reaching the age of 67. Page was made redundant. In judicial review he sought to challenge his redundancy by arguing that the university had erred in law (made an error in law) because redundancy was not a valid reason for dismissing staff under the statutes. The High Court agreed.

Held: The university appealed to the Court of Appeal, which allowed the appeal on the ground that dismissal fell within the lawful discretion conferred upon the university’s officers by the university statutes.

  • On appeal to the House of Lords, and cross-appeal by the university on the question of amenability, the House of Lords ruled in favour of the university too

Runa Begum v Tower Hamlets LBC [2003] UKHL 5

Facts: Begum was deemed homeless and the local authority was obliged to provide her with accommodation. An offer of accommodation was made, but Begum rejected it because she thought the area had severe drug problems, and problems with racism (she had been previously attacked). Since the offer of accommodation was rejected, the local authority had dispensed with its obligation towards her, and no further accommodation was offered

On appeal, the local authority itself conducted a review of the decision not to offer further accommodation; in determining the facts (relating to her alleged assault) and applying them to the law, the reviewer dismissed her appeal. On appeal to the County Court (i.e. a judicial review) the County Court held in Begum’s favour, since the local authority had failed to refer the matter to an independent reviewer

Held: On appeal to the Court of Appeal, the local authority won (affirmed by the House of Lords)

  • The local authority were entitled to make the determinations of fact it made, and it was not necessary for such facts to be determined by an independent body. The court reserves the right to scrutinise the procedural fairness of the processes leading to the decision making - but the facts are for it to decide.

R (Cart) v Upper Tribunal [2011] UKSC 28

Facts: The Upper Tribunals (which hears appeals from the First-Tier Tribunal) refused two claimants permission to appeal to it. The claimants sought judicial review of this refusal

The Administrative Court, the Court of Appeal, and the Supreme Court all rejected the claim in judicial review - but for different reasons…

The Administrative Court ruled that decisions of the Upper Tribunal were not amenable to judicial review at all, because the Upper Tribunal was an alter ego of the High Court

The Court of Appeal thought otherwise: they said that the Upper tribunal not alter ego of the High Court and so could in principle be subject to judicial review. However, it was within the lawful discretion of the Upper Tribunal to refuse permission to appeal

  • So they said, in effect, that the Upper tribunal would only be reviewed on a pre-Anisminic basis e.g. jurisdictional error

The Supreme Court took a different approach: the Upper Tribunal's decisions may be judicially reviewed, but only if the review poses an important point of principle or practice, or that there is some other compelling reason to hear the case in judicial review

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