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Judicial review

Judicial review is a specialised and complicated procedure that is only used in certain circumstances. If your case gets to that stage, you'll need legal advice from a solicitor. This page explains some of the key things you'll need to know.

What is judicial review?

Judicial review is a specialised type of court procedure that can be used to challenge the way in which a public organisation (such as your local council) has made a decision that affects you. It's a way of supervising public bodies to make sure they're acting within their legal powers and that they have proper procedures in place to deal with people fairly and openly.

By going down the route of judicial review, you're asking the Court of Session to:

  • look at how the decision was made (and not whether the decision itself was right or wrong)
  • check that the organisation didn't abuse its powers and
  • check that it acted lawfully.

To do this, you have to raise a 'petition for judicial review'.

Judicial review is not the same as an appeal so it's not the right way to go if you want to try and get a decision against you reversed or changed. If you take a case to judicial review, you're asking the court to look at the way in which a decision that affects you was made, to check that the organisation you're complaining about acted properly and within its powers.

Will I be able to use the judicial review procedure?

It depends. Judicial review is a complicated and specialised legal procedure. It's often a last resort and will only be appropriate in a few cases.

However, if you're not happy about the way a decision has been made by your council, or another public organisation, or the way you've been handled throughout a process (for example, if you've applied to the council as homeless) then judicial review may be an option for you.

Which court will my case go to?

If your case is being judicially reviewed, it will be dealt with by the Court of Session in Edinburgh. Have a look at our page on courts in Scotland for more information about the Court of Session.

Will I need a solicitor?

Yes, you will definitely need specialised legal advice from a solicitor. They will be able to advise you on whether it's worth applying for judicial review in the first place.

You will also need an Advocate or solicitor-advocate to represent you in the Court of Session. Your solicitor will 'instruct' someone appropriate to appear on your behalf.

How can judicial review help me?

Judicial review can only help you by getting a public body (like the council) to look at their decision-making processes again. The court won't be able to change a decision that's already been made by the public body but it can force it to look at its procedures again and make sure it's acting within the law.

For example, judicial review may be able to help you if you've made a homeless application and the council:

  • refuses to house you while it carries out enquires
  • ignores relevant factors (such as your health) in deciding whether temporary accommodation you're in is suitable or not
  • refuses to review its original decision
  • refuses to provide you with accommodation while a review is being carried out.

Time limit for raising a judicial review

From 22 September 2015, if you are wanting to raise a judicial review, it will have to be lodged within 3 months of the date of the decision, omission or action which you are wanting to challenge. 

If the decision, omission or action, you are wanting to challenged, happened before 22 September 2015, then the 3 month time limit does not apply. 

What if judicial review isn't appropriate in my case?

In most cases, judicial review won't be an option for you. However, that doesn't mean that you can't get help elsewhere.

Depending on what your case is about and how much money is involved (if any), you might be able to take your case to court using small claims, summary cause or ordinary cause court procedure.

If court proceedings aren't appropriate for you, you may have other options.

If you're not happy with the way your local council or a housing association are dealing with you, you could put in a complaint.

You could also consider making a complaint to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman.

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This content applies to Scotland only.
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