Legitimate expectation

Legitimate expectation

In English law, the concept of legitimate expectation arises from administrative law, a branch of public law. In proceedings for judicial review, it applies the principles of fairness and reasonableness to the situation where a person has an expectation or interest in a public body retaining a long-standing practice or keeping a promise.


The traditional constraint on a public body has been the test of "irrationality", also know as Wednesbury unreasonableness following "Associated Provincial Picture Houses Ltd v. Wednesbury Corp" which stated that a decision would be unreasonable if, ". . .no reasonable authority could ever have come to it" (per Lord Greene). But if the courts are to establish a justification for a more interventionist approach, irrationality will always be defeated if the particular decision has sufficient qualities of reasonableness, i.e. it should never be irrational to prefer the good of the many to the interests of the few. Hence, when faced with claims of a legitimate expectation, the courts have begun to require public officials to adopt the same approach as in making decisions affecting fundamental human rights (now formally protected through the Human Rights Act 1998 which incorporated the European doctrine of legitimate expectation to protect the public interest in consistency and certainty through a test of proportionality).

Emerging principles

In procedural terms, a person is entitled to a fair hearing before a decision is taken if he or she has a legitimate expectation of being heard. But the fact that a person is entitled to make representations does not, of itself, constrain public bodies which, subject to a duty not to abuse their power, are entitled to change their policies to reflect changed circumstances even though this may involve reneging on previous undertakings. If there is a substantive limitation on this right to make changes, it lies in a test of fairness where the public bodies are equivalent to a breach of contract or there have been representations that might have supported an estoppel and so caused legitimate expectations to arise. It is, of course, difficult to prove such a legitimate expectation unless fairly specific representations as to policies affecting future conduct have been made. The form of generalised understandings that ordinary citizens might have will not be sufficient for this purpose. And, even if there are legitimate expectations, there is no absolute right to have those expectations met. Fairness may require no more than a hearing or consultation before any change is finally decided and, if the citizen's expectation is real, the courts might require the public body to identify an overriding public interest to trump the particular expectation.

This supplements the Wednesbury approach but it may not be advancing judicial review very far since, even in cases where an estoppel might otherwise have arisen, it will be difficult to convince a court that going back on a specific representation relied on to produce detriment will be unreasonable, unfair or irrational.

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Поможем написать курсовую

Look at other dictionaries:

  • expectation of privacy — ex·pec·ta·tion of privacy: a belief in the existence of freedom from unwanted esp. governmental intrusion in some thing or place compare zone of privacy ◇ In order to successfully challenge a search or seizure as a violation of the Fourth… …   Law dictionary

  • Expectation of privacy — Tort law Part of the …   Wikipedia

  • expectation — noun (usually expectations) ADJECTIVE ▪ big, great, high, lofty (esp. AmE) ▪ modest ▪ I have modest expectations about what my research can accomplish …   Collocations dictionary

  • legitimate — le|git|i|mate [ lə dʒıtəmət ] adjective ** 1. ) allowed by the law or correct according to the law: Are the premises being used for legitimate business purposes? The Scots proclaimed James Stuart as the legitimate heir to the British throne. 2. ) …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • legitimate */*/ — UK [lɪˈdʒɪtəmət] / US [ləˈdʒɪtəmət] adjective 1) fair and reasonable It is perfectly legitimate to ask questions about a politician s personal life. legitimate interest/excuse/expectation: Did he have a legitimate excuse for being late? 2)… …   English dictionary

  • legitimate — adj. VERBS ▪ be, seem ▪ consider sth, deem sth, regard sth as, see sth as ▪ make sth ADVERB …   Collocations dictionary

  • O'Connor v. Ortega — Supreme Court of the United States Argued October 16, 1986 Decided March 31, 1987 …   Wikipedia

  • O'Neill v. Phillips — [1999] 1 WLR 1092; [http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld199899/ldjudgmt/jd990520/neill01.htm UKHL 20 May 1999] , is a UK company law case on an action for unfair prejudice under s.459 Companies Act 1985 (now s.994 Companies Act 2006). It… …   Wikipedia

  • O'Neill v Phillips — Court House of Lords Date decided 20 May 1999 Citation(s) [1999] UKHL 24, [1999] 1 WLR 1092 Case opinions Lord Hoffmann …   Wikipedia

  • Re Saul D Harrison & Sons plc — [1995] 1 BCLC 14, [1994] BCC 475, is a UK company law case on an action for unfair prejudice under s.459 Companies Act 1985 (now s.994 Companies Act 2006). It was decided in the Court of Appeal and deals with the concept of members of a business… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”