Pearlman v Keepers and Governors of Harrow School: CA 14 Jul 1978

The court considered the finality of decision of a county court judge regarding the interpretation of the phrase ‘structural alteration’ in the 1974 Act. Paragraph 2 (2) of Schedule 8 provided that the determination of the county court judge ‘shall be final and conclusive,’ and section 107 of the County Courts Act 1959 applied. The Divisional Court had held that judicial review was not available.
Held: The appeal succeeded Geoffrey Lane LJ dissenting).
Applying Anisminic, Lord Denning MR said: ‘the distinction between an error which entails absence of jurisdiction – and an error made within the jurisdiction – is very fine. So fine indeed that it is rapidly being eroded. Take this very case. . [The judge’s] error can be described on the one hand as an error which went to his jurisdiction. . By holding that it was not a ‘structural alteration . . or addition’ he deprived himself of jurisdiction to determine those matters. On the other hand . . it can plausibly be said that he had jurisdiction to inquire into the meaning of the words . . and that his wrong interpretation of them was only an error within his jurisdiction, and not an error taking him outside it. . I would suggest that this distinction should now be discarded. The High Court has, and should have, jurisdiction to control the proceedings of inferior courts and tribunals by way of judicial review. When they go wrong in law, the High Court should have power to put them right. . The way to get things right is to hold thus: no court or tribunal has any jurisdiction to make an error of law on which the decision of the case depends. If it makes such an error, it goes outside its jurisdiction and certiorari will lie to correct it . . I am of opinion that certiorari lies to quash the determination of the judge, even though it was made by statute ‘final and conclusive.”
Dissenting, Geoffrey Lane LJ said: ‘The judge is considering the words . . which he ought to consider. He is not embarking on some unauthorised or extraneous or irrelevant exercise. All that he has done is to come to what appears to this court to be a wrong conclusion upon a difficult question. It seems to me that, if this judge is acting outside his jurisdiction, so then is every judge who comes to a wrong decision on a point of law. Accordingly, I take the view that no form of certiorari is available to the tenant.’
Lord Denning MR, Geoffrey Lane LJ
[1978] 2 EGLR 61, [1978] CLY 2324, [1978] EWCA Civ 5, [1979] QB 56
Housing Act 1974, County Courts Act 1959 107
England and Wales
CitedAnisminic Ltd v Foreign Compensation Commission HL 17-Dec-1968
All Public Law Challenges are For a Nullity
The plaintiffs had owned mining property in Egypt. Their interests were damaged and or sequestrated and they sought compensation from the Respondent Commission. The plaintiffs brought an action for the declaration rejecting their claims was a . .

Cited by:
consideredBent v High Cliff Developments Ltd and Another ChD 2-Sep-1999
The replacement by a tenant of windows in a flat did not amount to structural alterations. The lease was clear as to what could constitute such alterations, and despite the different uses of the term in the lease, it clearly did not include either . .
CitedIrvine v Moran 1991
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CitedRoult v North West Strategic Health Authority CA 20-May-2009
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CitedRegina v Hull University Visitor, Ex parte Page; Regina v Lord President of the Privy Council ex Parte Page HL 3-Dec-1992
The decisions of University Visitors are subject to judicial review in that they exercise a public function. English law no longer draws a distinction between jurisdictional errors of law and non-jurisdictional errors of law.
However, the . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Updated: 25 September 2021; Ref: scu.183197