• In the case of R v Criminal Injuries Compensation Board ex parte a [1999] 2 ac 330, a public body’s decision can be overturned where they have misunderstood or behaved ignorant against an established or relevant fact

Facts of the Case

  • D rejected C’s claim that while her home was being burgled, two men during this assaulted, raped and buggered C.
  • D’s rejection was supported by evidence provided by a police officer indicating the absence of physical evidence of any rape or buggery.
  • However, in support of C’s claim, a doctor’s report evidenced the claim of buggery and also did not rule out the rape claim.
  • C applied for judicial review of D’s decision, but her relief on her substantive application was refused by the judge.

Issues

  • Under an error of fact, could the Court overturn D’s decision?

Held by the House of Lords

  • The House of Lords allowed the appeal and stated that where leave for an application for judicial review is given, without an application to be set aside, the issue of delay could not be looked over again at the substantive hearing where there is no ground for extending time.
  • The House of Lords overturned D’s decision on the ground that there was unfairness and a breach of natural justice.

Lord Slynn

Elaborate on the judgment

  • Lord Slynn emphasised that where a public body misunderstood or ignored an established o relevant fact, the Court’s can intervene to overturn that public body’s decision and fault of the public body doesn’t necessarily need to be demonstrated.
  • Although fault did not need to be established, unfairness must be shown.
  • “For my part, I would accept that there is jurisdiction to quash on that ground in this case, but I prefer to decide the matter on the alternative basis argued, namely that what happened in these proceedings was a breach of the rules of natural justice and constituted unfairness.
  • It does not seem to me to be necessary to find that anyone was at fault in order to arrive at this result. It is sufficient if objectively there is unfairness. Thus I would accept that it is in the ordinary way for the applicant to produce the necessary evidence. There is no onus on the Board to go out to look for evidence, nor does the Board have a duty to adjourn the case for further enquiries if the applicant does not ask for one.” 

Editor’s Notes

It is important to note that, while it was said in the case that a Court can quash a public body’s decision for ‘misunderstanding or ignorance of an established and relevant fact’ this was an obiter comment.