Magee, Re Judicial Review: QBNI 28 May 2013

The claimant challenged a decision taken by the Department of Justice not to re-open or reconsider an earlier decision of the Secretary of State taken in 2002 to refuse him compensation under section 133 of the 1988 Act for the compensation of people who spent time in custody following a wrongful conviction. The Department of Justice in 2012 had declined to reopen the application for compensation on the grounds that, since the application had already been decided in 2002, the Department had no powers to entertain the reopening of an old application on his behalf. The applicant contended that the Department of Justice not only had the power to reconsider the 2002 decision, but also a duty to do so.
Held: Stephens J said: ‘The respondent also contends that section 12 of the Interpretation Act 1978 is not to be seen as meaning that the power to decide questions affecting legal rights remains an open ended one. Instead it should be considered in the light of the principle of certainty and finality in administrative decision-making.’ and: ‘Mr Coll, on behalf of the Department of Justice in Northern Ireland, referred to section 12 at page 193 of Wade, Administrative Law, 10th Edition which states that:
‘But this (section 12) gives a highly misleading view of the law where the power is a power to decide questions affecting legal rights. In those cases the courts are strongly inclined to hold that the decision, once validly made, is an irrevocable legal act and cannot be recalled or revised. The same arguments which require finality for the decisions of courts of law apply to the decisions of statutory tribunals, ministers and other authorities.
For this purpose a distinction has to be drawn between powers of a continuing character and powers which, once exercised, are finally expended so far as concerns the particular case. An authority which has a duty to maintain highways or a power to take land by compulsory purchase may clearly act ‘from time to time as the occasion requires’. But if in a particular case it has to determine the amount of compensation or to fix the pension of an employee, there are equally clear reasons for imposing finality. Citizens whose ‘legal rights are determined administratively are entitled to know where they stand.”

Stephens J
[2013] NIQB 59
Criminal Justice Act 19888 133, Interpretation Act 1978 12
Northern Ireland
Cited by:
CitedSubsea Intervention Ltd v The Comptroller General of Patents ChD 19-Nov-2015
The company appealed from refusal of re-instatement of its patent which had expired through non-payment of renewal fees. On payment of the fees, the Patent Office objected that the applicant was not the registered proprietor.
Held: The . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Northern Ireland

Updated: 17 November 2021; Ref: scu.513888