The Need to Develop Principles of Prematurity and Ripeness for Review

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Until recently, English administrative law's concern with the timing of judicial review has largely concentrated upon the effect of delay in seeking review and the circumstances in which a person will be required to exhaust alternative remedies before seeking judicial review. It has not had a developed concept of prematurity or ripeness for review. The influence of the ultra vires principle has meant that until recently the predominant view (Wade and Forsyth, Administrative Law, p. 721) has been that “illegal administrative action can be challenged in the court as soon as it is taken or threatened”. The remedial focus of our law has resulted in the Balkanisation of the issue of timing. Courts, rather than looking at timing in the round, have considered the individual issues that arise, such as “delay”, “the effect of alternative remedies”, and “efficacy”.

The absence of a developed concept of prematurity or ripeness for review has impeded the development of the principles governing the exercise of the supervisory jurisdiction in difficult cases, such as those concerned with alternative remedies, advice, recommendations and other non-legally binding acts, or where an advisory declaration is sought. The only areas in which prematurity as such has had more than a passing role are preliminary and interlocutory decisions. However, the “rights”-based approach to judicial review which has started to emerge, and which will become more important after the Human Rights Bill is enacted, is likely to require greater articulation of the principles.

Keywords: administrative law; interlocutory decisions; judicial review

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 1998

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  • Judicial Review is now firmly established as the UK's leading journal for lawyers engaged in judicial review, catering for both practitioners and academics. It offers invaluable insights from today's foremost judicial review experts, combining analysis of general judicial review matters with practical information and guidelines for use by practitioners in the prepartation and conduct of applications for judicial review. The journal includes short and accessible items on the law, practice and procedure and recent cases. There is coverage of sub-topics within judicial review such as constitutional change, prison cases, commercial, and environmental judicial review. Other popular features are reviews of the academic literature, surveys of the leading cases, case commentaries and summaries of recent research.

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