Basic idea of Locus Standi

The concept of locus standi', or ‘standing' as it is otherwise known, is particularly relevant to administrative law, although it also has importance in relation to some aspects of European law and also to human rights law. Standing has long been a feature of English law, for example it was the subject of the 1858 case of Ware v Regent's Canal Co , but it is equally present in many other jurisdictions.


The issue of locus standi

The issue of locus standi is technically a preliminary one for the administrative action of judicial review. Essentially, locus standi is the way in which the courts determine who may be an applicant for judicial review. If a particular applicant is found to have standing then they will be permitted to have their request heard (though determining that an applicant has locus standi will not necessarily mean that they will be successful in their final application). On the other hand, if the applicant is not found to have standing to bring the action, the court will not hear their complaint.

Section 31(3) of the Supreme Court Act 1981 provides that “No application for judicial review shall be made… unless… the applicant has a sufficient interest in the matter to which the application relates.” This provision therefore limits the number of challenges to administrative decisions, which would otherwise cause unnecessary interference to the administrative process. However, although the issue of locus standi is technically a preliminary issue, the courts have held that apart from in cases where the applicant interest is so tenuous that standing can easily be denied prior to the hearing of the merits (ie at the leave stage), standing will generally be determined alongside the merits of the case. In IRC v National Federation of Self Employed and Small Businesses [1982] AC 617 the House of Lords held that standing should be considered in two stages. Firstly, at the leave stage the court should refuse locus standi to anyone who appears to be a mere busybody or mischief maker (per Lord Scarman). Secondly, if leave is granted, the court may consider standing again as part of the hearing of the merits of the case, where it may decide that in fact the applicant does not have a sufficient interest.

Individuals and pressure groups

Locus standi may conveniently be considered as applying to two groups of applicant: individuals and pressure groups. Where individuals are concerned it will normally be fairly easy for them to demonstrate sufficient interest, so long as they are in some way personally interested in the decision they wish to challenge. For example, in R v Independent Broadcasting Authority, ex parte Whitehouse (1984) Times 14 April, a television licence holder was found to have sufficient standing to challenge a decision to broadcast a controversial film. It was indicated that every television licence holder would have locus standi in litigation relating to the broadcast of programmes likely to give offence. Thus, the fact that the applicant was a licence-holder, rather than simply a viewer, was enough to give her sufficient standing.

Where interest or pressure groups are concerned the issue of locus standi has been more complicated. Where a group is acting in relation to a decision which directly affects its own interests, no problem arises as it is acting in the same way as an individual (eg R v Liverpool Corporation ex parte Liverpool Taxi Fleet Operators' Association [1972] 2 QB 299). However, where the group has been formed simply to challenge a decision which does not directly concern its members, it will not have sufficient standing (R v Secretary of State for the Environment, ex parte Rose Theatre Trust [1990] 1 QB 504. Yet, where the group can demonstrate that some or all of its members are personally interested in the decision locus standi will be found (R v HM Inspectorate of Pollution ex parte Greenpeace Ltd (No 2) [1994] 4 All ER 329. Furthermore, even where the group cannot demonstrate personal interest on the part of its members, if it is a highly respected ‘expert' group standing is still likely to be found (R v Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, ex parte World Development Movement Ltd [1995] 1 All ER 611).

 

References


(1) - To the extent that these are considered to be separate from administrative law generally.

(2) - (1858) 3 De G & J 212)

(3) - For example it forms part of EU administrative law, Harker, M., Hviid, M., and Wright, K., “The EU rules on standing in merger cases: should firms have to demonstrate ‘harm to competition'?” (2011) E L Rev 500

(4) - Barnett, H., Constitutional & Administrative Law, 7th Edition (2009), Routledge-Cavendish, pg 701



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