Judicial Review of County Court Decision

The Royal Courts of Justice Sign, London

Image via Wikipedia

The link with harassment in this post is exceptionally tenuous but the remedy achieved by Kimberley Sharing (through the evidently excellent work of Shelter) is so unusual that it warrants a report.

In R (on the application of Sharing) v Preston County Court [2012] EWHC 515 (Admin), which is not yet available on BAILII, Ms Sharing was successful in her application for judicial review of a decision of a Circuit Judge. Yes, you read that correctly; a County Court Circuit Judge decision.

Ms Sharing had brought a claim for unlawful eviction and harassment (that’s the link folks) against her landlord but it was dismissed by the District Judge and judgment on a counterclaim by her landlord.

Subsequently it transpired that the landlord had misled the District Judge about the availability of a material witness, a Police Officer, and that the Officer’s statement as presented to the court had perhaps been economical with the truth.

As the District Judge had not been impressed by the credibility of either party, it was certainly arguable that this new evidence of apparent duplicity might have weighed against the landlord and caused the District Judge to take a better view of Ms Sharing.

Unsurprisingly then, she asked for permission to appeal. That application was refused by HHJ Appleton at an oral hearing. Once permission to appeal is refused at an oral hearing, that is the end of the matter. There is no further right of appeal. Expect that is, the remote possibility of a judicial review of the refusal.

This is recognised as being a wholly exceptional remedy which will be granted only in the rarest of cases. The authorities were considered and pulled together in the case of R (on the application of Strickson) v Preston County Court & Ors [2007] EWCA Civ 1132 and may be summarised in terms that before a judicial review may be granted “a defect much more fundamental than an error of law in the particular case” has to be established. Laws LJ said:

“… a distinction may be drawn between a case where the judge simply gets it wrong, even extremely wrong (and wrong on the law, or the facts, or both) and a case where … the judicial process itself has been frustrated or corrupted. This, I think, marks the truly exceptional case. It will or may include the case … where the court embarks upon an enquiry which it lacks all power to deal with, or fails altogether to enquire or adjudicate upon a matter which it was its unequivocal duty to address. It would include substantial denial of the right to a fair hearing, and it may include cases where the lower court has indeed acted ‘in complete disregard of its duties … “‘

It is clear from the parts of the transcript cited in the JR judgment that in Ms Sharing’s case, HHJ Appleton was evidently ill-disposed to the appeal and more significantly proved to be unwilling to listen to any contrary case.

In what might be regarded as something of an understatement, the High Court noted that Counsel had been given “an extremely rough ride”. The record showed that he had aggressively interrupted Counsel for Ms Sharing and repeatedly failed to allow her to develop the point she wanted to make.

The High Court found that he had acted “in such a way that a fair minded and independent observer would conclude that he had firmly and finally made up his mind from the outset” that he was going to refuse the application and thus gave the impression of bias.

The sharp eyed reader may have noticed that the Strickson case was also against Preston County Court. If, like me, that led you immediately to wonder which Judge was under the microscope then, let me save you the trouble of checking; it was, indeed, the very same HHJ Appleton.

Strickson did not succeed but the decision in Ms Sharing’s case was quashed and sent back to the County Court for rehearing. Naturally, it would need to be heard by a different Judge but as Counsel for Ms Sharing remarked (dryly, I like to imagine) this would not present any difficulty as HHJ Appleton had by now retired


Leave a comment

Filed under Cases, General, News, Off Topic

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s