• In the case of Associated Provincial Picture Houses Ltd v Wednesbury Corporation [1948] 1 K.B. 223, it was held that the court would only interfere with the decision of a public authority, the authority having considered relevant factors, where its decision is so unreasonable that no reasonable authority could ever have come to it.

Facts of the Case

  • Under the Sunday Entertainments Act 1932, D had authority to open cinemas subject to such conditions as they thought fit to impose.
  • C’s cinema was licensed to operate on Sundays, subject to the condition that no children younger than 15 could enter (regardless of adult accompaniment).
  • C challenged D’s condition through judicial review, arguing that the decision was unreasonable and beyond D’s power.

Issues

  • Was D’s condition unreasonable, and did that justify the court interfering with D’s authority on this matter?

Held by the Court of Appeal

  • Finding for D, that Parliament had given D discretion to set the conditions for the licence. That discretion may be exercised differently according to their honest and reasonably held opinion. It was not the court’s job to substitute its own opinion.
  • The court could only interfere with D’s decision where the decision is so unreasonable that no reasonable authority could ever have come to it. In the present case, D’s condition was within the reasonable decisions one could make. C’s appeal was dismissed.

Lord Green M.R.

  • C’s argument was that D’s condition was unreasonable and that in consequence it was beyond D’s power to impose. C’ contention is based on a misconception as to the effect of this Act in granting this discretionary power to D.
  • The courts must always remember that this is an executive act and not a judicial act. Conditions under this Act may be imposed within D’s discretion without limitation. The Act provides no appeal from D’s decision.
  • The court can only interfere with an act of executive authority if it is shown that the authority has contravened the law. Whenever this is alleged, the court must substitute its own opinion for that authority. It is only concerned with seeing whether or not the proposition is made good.
  • “It is true that the discretion must be exercised reasonably…Lawyers familiar with the phraseology commonly used in relation to exercise of statutory discretions often use the word ‘unreasonable’ in a rather comprehensive sense. It has frequently been used and is frequently used as a general description of the things that must not be done. For instance, a person entrusted with a discretion must, so to speak, direct himself properly in law. He must call his own attention to the matters which he is bound to consider. He must exclude from his consideration matters which are irrelevant to what he has to consider. If he does not obey those rules, he may truly be said, and often is said, to be acting ‘unreasonably.’ Similarly, there may be something so absurd that no sensible person could ever dream that it lay within the powers of the authority. Warrington L.J. in Short v Poole Corp gave the example of the red-haired teacher, dismissed simply because she had red hair. That is unreasonable in one sense. In another sense it is taking into consideration extraneous matters. It is so unreasonable that it might almost be described as being done in bad faith; and, in fact, all these things run into one another” [229].
  • D’s condition was a decision a reasonable authority could make. The well-being and physical and moral health of children is a matter the authority can have in mind. They have not failed to consider all relevant factors. Justifying the court’s interference requires something far more overwhelming than a decision where other authorities have imposed stricter conditions, and the courts have upheld them.