Associated Provincial Picture Houses v Wednesbury Corporation [1947] 2 All ER 680 (CA)

Judicial review – lawfulness – unreasonableness

This case sets down the test for ‘unreasonableness’ as a ground for judicial review of the lawfulness of decisions of pubic bodies. The Court of Appeal said:

“The court is entitled to investigate the action of the local authority with a view to seeing whether it has taken into account matters which it ought not to take into account, or, conversely, has refused to take into account matters which it ought to take into account. Once that question is answered in favour of the local authority, it may still be possible to say that the local authority, nevertheless, has come to a conclusion so unreasonable that no reasonable authority could ever have come to it, and in such a case the court can interfere. The power of a court, however, to interfere in any case is not that of an appellate authority to override a decision of the local authority, but is that of a judicial authority which is concerned, and concerned only, to see whether the local authority has contravened the law by acting in excess of the powers which Parliament has confided in it”.

The coming into force of the Human Rights 1998 has meant the ‘Wednesbury unreasonable’ principle has all but been superseded by the concept of ‘proportionality’, which requires a fair balance between the objective to be achieved, and the means used to achieve it.

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