Regina v Bedwellty Justices Ex Parte Williams: HL 18 Sep 1996

A decision at committal to return an accused for trial is susceptible to judicial review where committal was based solely on inadmissible evidence or was based on evidence not reasonably capable of supporting it. The committal was quashed.
The ‘Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court has normally in judicial review proceedings jurisdiction to quash a decision of an inferior court, tribunal or other statutory body for error of law’
Lord Cooke of Thorndon said: ‘The right to cross-examine at a preliminary hearing finds no place in most human rights instruments, perhaps in none. It may not long survive anywhere in the United Kingdom. This case must be determined nevertheless on the footing that the right still exists here and may be of significant value, at least of a tactical kind, to the defence. Your Lordships are not entitled to prefer a changed conception of the public interest to the clear statutory law.’
‘In Ex parte Page the five members of the Appellate Committee (Lord Keith of Kinkel, Lord Griffiths, Lord Browne-Wilkinson, Lord Mustill and Lord Slynn of Hadley) were unanimous that usually any error of law made by an administrative tribunal or inferior court in reaching its decision can be quashed by certiorari for error of law. There were, however, observations to the effect that as regards an inferior court of law a statutory provision that its decision is to be `final and conclusive’ or the like will confine the remedy to cases of abuse of power, acting outside jurisdiction in the narrow sense, or breach of natural justice.’
Lord Cooke agreed: ‘My Lord, in my respectful opinion it would be both illogical and unsatisfactory to hold that the law of judicial review should distinguish in principle between a committal based solely on inadmissible evidence and a committal based solely on evidence and a committal based solely on evidence not reasonably capable of supporting it. In each case there is in truth no evidence to support the committal and the committal is therefore open to quashing on judicial review. Nonetheless there is a practical distinction. If justices have been of the opinion on admissible evidence that there is sufficient to put the accused on trial, I suggest that normally on a judicial review application a court will rightly be slow to interfere at that stage. The question will more appropriately be dealt with on a no case submission at the close of the prosecution evidence, when the worth of that evidence can be better assessed by a judge who has heard it, or even on a pre-trial application grounded on abuse of process. In practice successful judicial review proceedings are likely to be rare in both classes of case, and especially rare in the second class.’

Lord Cooke of Thorndon
Gazette 18-Sep-1996, [1997] AC 225, [1996] 2 Cr App R 594, [1996] 3 All ER 737
Supreme Court Act 1981 29(3)
England and Wales
CitedNeill v North Antrim Magistrates’ Court HL 1992
The question before the House was whether a committal was a nullity when the magistrate had received inadmissible evidence.
Held: Committal proceedings should only be judicially reviewed in cases of ‘really substantial error leading to . .

Cited by:
CitedRegina v Department of Education and Employment ex parte Begbie CA 20-Aug-1999
A statement made by a politician as to his intentions on a particular matter if elected could not create a legitimate expectation as regards the delivery of the promise after elected, even where the promise would directly affect individuals, and the . .
CitedR, Regina v CACD 4-Apr-2008
The defendant appealed his conviction for rape, saying that the complainant’s evidence had wrongfully been allowed to be given over a remote video link. Provisions to allow such means of giving evidence had been intended to be phased in only as . .
CitedHamill, Re Judicial Review (No 2) QBNI 8-Dec-2017
. .
CitedRegina v Whitehaven Justices ex parte Thompson Admn 9-Oct-1998
Application for certiorari to quash a decision of the Whitehaven Magistrates’ Court to commit the applicant for trial to the Crown Court on two charges: the first, conspiring to supply heroin between December 1996 and July 1997; and the second, . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Criminal Practice, Magistrates

Updated: 05 January 2022; Ref: scu.86109