Preliminary Judgment Allows Care North East v Northumberland County Council Judicial Review Challenge to Proceed Swiftly and Efficiently

Citation: [2024] EWHC 184 (Admin)
Judgment on


The case of Care North East (R on the application of) v Northumberland County Council [2024] EWHC 184 (Admin) presents a judicial review challenge against the Defendant, Northumberland County Council. This analysis examines the preliminary judgment made by Fordham J in the Administrative Court sitting in Leeds, focusing on the key legal principles applied and the subsequent directions for the case as per the summary provided.

Key Facts

The case involves a claim for judicial review by the Claimant, Care North East, against Northumberland County Council. The Claimant’s legal representation, Chris Buttler KC, is instructed by David Collins Solicitors, while the Defendant is represented by Joanne Clement KC, instructed by Northumberland County Council itself. The full oral submissions for the case lasted 2½ hours, which the judge regarded as a ‘dress rehearsal’ for all arguments.

The judge concluded that the Defendant has an arguable defence to the claim and directed that it progresses to a full hearing. Notably, Fordham J has determined that various ‘discretionary bar’ arguments will require full consideration alongside the judicial review grounds, and these will not impair the Defendant’s ability to contend for the case.

The judgment provides insight into several legal principles regarding judicial review procedure:

  1. Threshold of Arguability: The judge applies the conventional threshold of arguability required at the permission stage of judicial review (Judicial Review Guide 2023 §9.1.3). The Claimant’s case meets this threshold, warranting further examination.

  2. Discretionary Bar Arguments: These include delay, utility, and the statutory materiality test, which questions whether it is “highly likely that the outcome would not have been substantially different” without the purported unlawfulness. The judge asserts the need to fully consider these arguments (Guide §§9.1.4-9.1.6).

  3. Retention of Case for Judicial Economy: Citing R (Sneddon) v Secretary of State for Justice [2023] EWHC 3303 (Admin), the judge decides to retain the case for the sake of judicial efficiency, case management, and the overriding objective of the court system.

  4. Rolled-Up Hearing Directive: The judge decides on a rolled-up hearing, as it streamlines the procedural pathway (Guide §

  5. Expedition and Timetabling: The judge grants expedited proceedings and sets a clear timetable for the submission of evidence, skeleton arguments, and additional materials, demonstrating adherence to principles of procedural clarity and timeliness.


The ruling outlines the progression of the case and includes several important decisions:

  1. Advance to Substantive Hearing: The case is cleared to proceed to a full hearing.

  2. Case Retention by Fordham J: To promote continuity and efficient use of resources, the judge opts to retain and preside over the case himself.

  3. Rolled-Up Hearing: The hearing is to address both the permission to proceed with judicial review and the substantive claims together in April 2024.

  4. Expedited Timetable Established: Deadlines for evidence submission and responses are set, maintaining the momentum of the case preparations.

  5. Preservation of Early Arguments: The work already done is preserved by effectively considering the case “part heard”.


In summary, Fordham J’s preliminary judgment in Care North East v Northumberland County Council sets out a roadmap for a judicial review challenge to proceed, applying established principles of arguability, considering discretionary bars to a claim, and upholding procedural efficiency. By opting for a rolled-up hearing, the judge has streamlined the case progression, ensuring a swift and comprehensive determination on all issues. The case illustrates the careful balance that must be upheld between allowing a potentially arguable claim to proceed while also ensuring efficiency and the proper use of judicial resources in the review process. The outcome of this case, following the substantive hearing in April 2024, will be one to watch for legal professionals in the UK.