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Legitimate Expectation: Domestic Principles

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Legitimate expectation is a key principle within judicial review. Many cases succeed, or at least get off the ground, by relying on one. The applicant will say to the court: (a) I have one; (b) it is under threat; and (c) the court should protect me. As with proportionality, focus emerges out of cloudy (Euro-) scepticism. Gone are the days when home-grown procedural fairness meant we had no need to elevate this “catch-phrase” into a principle (Lloyd v McMahon [1987] AC 625 at 714G): the “catch-phrase” has now “achieved an important place in developing the law of administrative fairness” (Behluli v Secretary of State for the Home Department [1998] Imm AR 407 at 415). Gone too are the days when home-grown Wednesbury reasonableness meant no place for the “heresy” of substantive legitimate expectation (R v Secretary of State for the Home Department ex p. Hargreaves [1997] 1 WLR 906): the “heresy” has since been domesticated (R v North and East Devon Health Authority ex p. Coughlan [2000] 2 WLR 622). And more can be expected of the principle, since: “The limits to its role have yet to be finally determined by the courts. Its application is still being developed on a case by case basis” (Coughlan, at para. 71). This article seeks to summarise the current position in English law.

Keywords: constitutional limits; judicial review; legitimate expectation; substantive review

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2000

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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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