Litigation Recent Decisions 27/1/98

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Councils have no duty to set out exceptional circumstances

R v Buckinghamshire County Council, ex parte Pawan Sharma: R v Wiltshire County Council, ex parte Lakhbir Kaur (1998)

Court: QBD (Scott Baker J) 12/1/98

Summary: Applicants had been refused discretionary grants for professional courses but had received letters informing them that these might be made available if they could set out exceptional circumstances for their particular cases. What might constitute 'exceptional circumstances' was not given.

Applicants had both applied for discretionary grants to enable them to take the Legal Practice Course. In both cases applications were refused but letters accompanying the refusals (a) advised applicants it was not council policy to make awards of the types sought; but (b) invited them to appeal if they could set out exceptional circumstances which might justify the award of the grants. No complaint was made that exceptional circumstances would have to be made out, but that there were no published criteria about what amounted to exceptional circumstances. Applicants contended a duty was owed to make fair and consistent decisions which necessitated the publication of criteria. Respondents contended it was not possible to specify all exceptional circumstances. In both cases evidence was given of the manner in which appeals were handled and statistics given for successful appeals.