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Jake's Law Corner
The Royal Courts of Justice (RCJ), home to the High Court and the Court of Appeal.
I first fell into studying law back in 2009 where I picked it as one of my A levels at college. I found that I really enjoyed the subject and quickly became involved with what the department's activities. This, in turn, led me to apply to study law at university.
I was gripped by the nuances of the law and the impacts that are generated by virtue of the mere existence of these very fine distinctions. I developed an interest in advocacy whilst mooting at university and enjoyed doing independent legal research. This was the moment that I realised I wanted to pursue a career at the Bar.
For me, the law is much more than "a set of rules", and it is so much more subtle when compared to TV shows about lawyers. Law underpins society and governs day-to-day life within that society. It is a means of serving justice in many disputes, and the cases before the court are of real significance to people and businesses alike. These cases have a real impact on those involved, be it in the criminal or the civil arenas. Further, the law (albeit a slowly-evolving creature) is subject to change. Thus, one can make the argument that it is indeed fluid. This is usually achieved by the courts making decisions through interpretation of existing legislation or by Parliament passing new "Acts of Parliament", which are often influenced by social and policy arguments.
My particular interest is in public law, which is concerned with the relationship between citizens and the state. Particularly with public law, we are concerned with the mechanism of "Judicial Review", which is at the cornerstone of that specific field. Public law extends to a variety of contexts including the following, non-exhaustive areas: planning, environmental, health and immigration decisions. I find public law interesting as the field influences what the government can or cannot do, and acts as means of preventing the government from acting in an arbitrary way, through the means of a fine balancing act. Usually, this balance is between the rights of the individual, and the needs of the general public, although this is not a set rule as some rights are absolute and cannot be removed.
Public law cases can vary significantly, ranging from individuals simply trying to assert their rights, commercial bodies challenging decisions, right through to large policy cases such as the Article 50 litigation that the UK witnessed during 2016 and 2017 (I am one of the lucky few to say that I was actually in the Royal Courts of Justice during that case!). These cases can have a significant impact on government policies and legislation. It is an intellectually stimulating area of law. The link with politics is especially interesting as the decisions and legal scrutiny by the courts can have practical implications on the general public.
More recently, having commenced studying a masters degree at UCL, I have further developed my interest in human rights law, on top of forming new found interests in both employment law and regulatory law.
Parliament Square, home to the UK Supreme Court, the highest court in the jurisdiction.
Judicial Review: What You Need To Know
What is Judicial Review?
Judicial Review (JR) is the process by which decisions that are made by public authorities are scrutinised. The process is essentially a means of testing the lawfulness of a decision that has been made. The focus is of the fairness of the process behind the decision that is at the centre of proceedings, not the decision itself. This is usually done by the High Court, but if any appeals are sought or the High Court gives permission, the Court of Appeal and in Supreme Court also rule on such decisions.
Why do we have JR?
JR heavily influences what the Government can or cannot do. In some instances, it has narrowed the powers of the Government, whereas in others it has ruled that the decision is completely lawful. It acts as means of preventing the Government from acting in an arbitrary way and abusing their role within society. JR is also a means upholding the Rule of Law.
How does JR work?
The court will first need to decide whether or not the person claiming (the Claimant) against the decision maker (DM) has permission to bring such proceedings. Permission should be granted if the judge accepts that the Claimant has an arguable case. The Claimant must also be someone who has a 'sufficient interest' in the matter at stake, which is referred to as 'standing' (see section 31 Senior Courts Act 1981). Such applications should be brought promptly, and no later than three months of the decision that is being challenged. Should permission or 'leave' to bring the proceedings be given, then the Claimant will be able to proceed with a full trial.
It should be noted that the following are not usually accepted by the Administrative Court as excuses when dealing with late applications: ignorance of the law or an unjustified delay in seeking/obtaining legal advice.