Judicial review has ancient origins (see Keighley Case (1609) 10 Co Rep 139). Sometimes called the ‘supervisory jurisdiction’, judicial review is the High Court’s power to police the legality of decisions made by public bodies. Judicial review cases are decided by the Administrative Court, part of the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court (the Upper Tribunal also has certain judicial review powers (Section 20.1)). Judicial review applies to all public bodies, including courts and tribunals other than Parliament, which is protected by privilege (Section 11.6), and the High Court itself. Judicial review applies to government decisions and actions that affect individual rights and interests and also to general statements of government policy, at least where they relate to individual rights (e.g. Gillick v West Yorkshire CC  AC 162: guidance on contraception). Although partly regulated by statute, judicial review is essentially a creation of the common law, so that the courts themselves control its scope and limits. It is an essential aspect of the rule of law (see R (Alconbury Developments Ltd) v Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions  2 All ER 929 at 981; R (Cart) v Upper Tribunal  1 AC 663 at –). Judicial review strikes an accommodation between competing aspects of the separation of powers. On the one hand, the principle of checks and balances requires that government action be subject to review by independent and impartial tribunals. On the other hand, judicial review operates within the context of the parliamentary accountability of the executive; from this latter perspective, the functional separation of powers pulls in the other direction by requiring the court to avoid trespassing into the political territory of Parliament.
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