- An English law provided that cinemas could only open on Sundays with permission from the local authority.
- Associated Provincial Picture Houses (Associated) applied for permission.
- Permission was granted, but only provided that no children under the age of 15 was admitted.
- Associated appealed arguing that the decision was unreasonable.
- Could the Court overturn the decision because it was unreasonable?
- The Court held that it could not intervene because it can only do so where the decision maker has gone beyond their legal powers.
- This means the court can only intervene in cases where:
- The decision maker has not considered matters that lawfully must be considered;
- The decision maker has considered matters that are not relevant; or
- The decision was so unreasonable that no reasonable person could have made it.
- The third limb – that the decision was “so absurd that no sensible person could ever dream that it lay within the powers of the authority”  has become known as Wednesbury Unreasonableness.
- In this particular case, whether or not the Court thought the condition was fair or the best outcome was irrelevant – it is only relevant whether it was lawful, and it was. This was because the Parliament wants the decision maker to make the decision, not the Court. Therefore Associated’s case failed.
- This case therefore shows that a Court can only intervene in very limited circumstances. This is what is known as “judicial review”.
“Similarly, there may be something so absurd that no sensible person could ever dream that it lay within the powers of the authority. Warrington L.J. in Short v. Poole Corporation  Ch 66, 90, 91 gave the example of the red-haired teacher, dismissed because she had red hair. That is unreasonable in one sense. In another sense it is taking into consideration extraneous matters. It is so unreasonable that it might almost be described as being done in bad faith; and, in fact, all these things run into one another.”
(Lord Greene MR at )
The full text is available here: http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/1947/1.html
-- Download Associated Provincial Picture Houses Ltd v Wednesbury Corporation  1 KB 223 as PDF --
Save this case