. Unreasonableness is one of the grounds of judicial review, judicial review is a procedure that allows the court can review an administrative action by public body and it is definitely not possible for any public authority to act in a way of unreasonableness or irrationality in their decisions. The word irrationality can also use to elaborate unreasonableness and both term basically gives us the same meaning. An unreasonableness test was created in a case known as Wednesbury’s case to assess whether a decision made by public authority was fully unreasonable, this unreasonableness is also known as Wednesbury unreasonableness. Any act or decision found to be Wednesbury unreasonableness will also be deemed as irrational. The fact of Wednesbury case was about that a person (appellant) thought that the decision of the local council was very unreasonable by imposing a condition to not allow children under the age of 15 to enter the cinema on Sunday. However, the court did not recognise that the condition imposed by the local authority was unreasonable because in the process of the decision-making, the public authority might have some reasonable and proper factors to be considered, for instances, the well-being and moral health of the children. Therefore, the decision of the local authority was not ‘so absurd that no sensible person could ever dream that it lay within the powers of the authority’.1 Unreasonableness will only be considered if the public authority exercised his power which is not in line with the law.
I can show few examples that involved unreasonable decision, in the case of Short v. Poole Corporation,2 a red-haired teacher was dismissed just because she had red hair, this is totally unreasonable and can be said that it was done in bad faith. In Roberts v Hopwood3 showed that the minimum wages set by the authority were totally unreasonable due to their ignorance of the market rates and fiduciary interests of the local ratepayers. The above cases have successfully challenged on the ground of unreasonableness, but actually, these cases are very rare. One important thing to bear in mind is that it is very difficult to prove unreasonableness, this is because the court would only interfere when the authority exercises its discretion in a way that is ‘so unreasonable that no reasonable authority could ever have come to it’.4 Besides, Wednesbury unreasonableness normally would not occur on its own, in the case of Roberts v Hopwood as mentioned earlier, it involved unreasonableness but at the same time the court has also shown that the council also took other irrelevant considerations into account. The case of R v Secretary of State for Education5 would be another good example to illustrate that Wednesbury unreasonableness is difficult to establish and it would not appear on its own. The court was not in a position to challenge the authority’s decision based on economic policy that related to how the government used its resources, it was held that there was no unreasonableness for the Education Secretary to terminate their programme in order to save money and to achieve government policy. It would be more difficult to quashed a decision on the ground of unreasonableness especially cases related to allocation of resources. Hence, they eventually challenged on other ground of review and succeed.
However, in Nottinghamshire County Council v Secretary of State for the Environment6 showed that sometimes it might be very difficult in applying the Wednesbury unreasonableness test because of its strict requirement. The court was not willing to intervene in such situation which involving political dispute, the court will only interfere if the State had acted in bad faith, improper motive or the consequences of the State’s decision was so absurd and unreasonable that the court must have intervened.7 Therefore, this might cause a very big stepping stone and huge difficulty for the people who wants to apply for judicial
1 Hilaire Barnett, Constitutional & Administrative Law (4th edn, Cavendish Publishing Limited) 871
21926 Ch 66
31925 AC 578
4 Associated Provincial Picture Houses Ltd v Wednesbury Corporation 1947 EWCA Civ 1
5 2005 2 A.C. 246
6 1986 AC 240
7 ibid 250-251