Thursday Law Report: No jurisdiction to reconsider delay

15 April 1999 Regina v Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, ex parte A House of Lords (Lord Slynn of Hadley, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, Lord Nolan, Lord Clyde, Lord Hobhouse of Woodborough) 25 March 1999
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The Independent Culture
WHEN AN application for leave to move for judicial review was granted despite having being made outside the time period provided for in Order 53 rule 4 of the Rules of the Supreme Court, there was no jurisdiction to reconsider the question of extension of time on the hearing of the substantive application.

The House of Lords allowed the applicant's appeal against the decision of the Court of Appeal which had upheld Popplewell J's decision to reconsider, on the substantive hearing of her application for judicial review, the question of delay in making that application.

The applicant had applied to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board on 20 November 1991 for compensation claiming that, in the course of a burglary at her house, she had been assaulted, raped and buggered. That application was refused orally and the refusal was confirmed by letter on 9 December 1993.

On 14 February 1994 Carnwath J granted her leave to move for judicial review of the decision, apparently intending to extend the period within which the application should be made pursuant to RSC Order 53 rule 4, ie "promptly and in any event within three months from the date when grounds for the application first arose".

On the substantive hearing, Popplewell J rejected the Board's contention that the delay had caused hardship, prejudice or detriment to good administration, but ruled that he was entitled to reconsider the question of delay on the basis that no good reason had been shown for extending the period, and to refuse to extend time, treating the grant of leave in effect as a conditional leave.

Nicholas Blake QC and Elizabeth Woodcraft (Miller Parris) for the applicant; Michael Kent QC (Treasury Solicitor) for the Board.

Lord Slynn said that three questions arose on the appeal: whether the application for judicial review should have been allowed to proceed so long out of time; whether there were grounds for setting aside the decision of the Board; and whether it was now right to set aside the decision and to send it back for further consideration.

Pursuant to RSC Order 53 rule 4 and section 31(7) of the Supreme Court Act 1981, even if an application for leave to move for judicial review was not made promptly the court might extend the period if it found good reason for doing so.

However, the court might refuse leave or the relief sought if in its opinion to grant relief would be likely to cause hardship or prejudice or would be detrimental to good administration.

In the present case, it had not been necessary for Popplewell J to consider whether good reason for an extension of time had been shown on the facts, since that issue had been concluded by Carnwath J. Accordingly, Ex parte Worth [1985] STC 564 should be overruled, and Popplewell J had not had jurisdication to reconsider the question of an extension of time.

It was plain that the Board had been led to proceed on evidence which was wrong and that they had not had the true facts, because a police officer had given inaccurate evidence about a medical examination undergone by the applicant, and the police doctor's report had not been before the Board.

The police had a special position in cases such as the present, and should have made inquiries as to the existence of the report. In those circumstances, although there was no suggestion that the inaccuracy of the officer's evidence had been either deliberate or fraudulent, there had been a breach of natural justice and the proceedings had been unfair.

Although there obvious difficulties in re-opening the matter, the only new evidence was documentary and it would be possible for the Board to consider whether the doctor's evidence changed the picture in the applicant's favour. Accordingly, since a breach of natural justice had been established, the decision would be quashed and the decision remitted to the Board for reconsideration.