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About Public Interest Litigation

What is public interest litigation?

Public interest litigation is the use of the law to advance human rights and equality, or raise issues of broad public concern.  It helps advance the cause of minority or disadvantaged groups or individuals.

Public interest cases may arise from both public and private law matters.  Public law concerns the various rules and regulations that govern the exercise of power by public bodies.  Private law concerns those cases in which a public body is not involved, and can be found in areas such as employment law or family law.  Public interest litigation is most commonly used to challenge the decisions of public authorities by judicial review.  Judicial review is a form of court proceeding in which a judge reviews the lawfulness of a decision or action, or a failure to act, by a public body. Judicial review is concerned with whether the law has been correctly applied, and the right procedures have been followed.  For more information on judicial review and how to bring a judicial review challenge, see our guide here.

 

The value of public interest litigation

Public interest litigation can:

  • Clarify the law.
     
  • Hold public bodies to account by ensuring that they make appropriate decisions, act fairly and transparently and within the remit of their powers. 
     
  • Help develop the law by giving judges the opportunity to interpret legislation.
     
  • Give vulnerable people a voice by highlighting an important issue and providing a platform for advocating for their rights.
     
  • Raise awareness of important issues encouraging public debate and media coverage.