Public law is essentially about how public authorities, such as County Governments and/or National Government departments use and exercise their power. When they exercise that power unlawfully or if the decision making process itself is unjust or unfair then it can be open to challenge – that challenge can be by way of their complaints system, or possibly by judicial review if there is no other remedy available or all available remedies have been exhausted.
The aim of public law is therefore to control the misuse of power by public bodies, those bodies or organizations can include: government departments, agencies and even government officials – Cabinet Secretaries, Principal Secretaries and head of Parastatals.
It also includes County Governments councils and those departments within them such as social services, housing and local education authorities. Public law challenges can also be made against health authorities, prisons and even the courts themselves.
Increasingly public bodies have devolved their functions to other agencies and bodies. Generally, and in most cases they will still be governed by public law if they are commissioned to act by an Act of Parliament or in principle can be seen as formerly carrying out an authorized public function.
County and national government and other public bodies obtain their power from primary legislation, such as Acts of Parliament and secondary legislation, such as regulations, delegation legislation, orders rules etc. This primary and secondary legislation inevitably affects all of us, health service users, those affected by planning decisions, homeless people, those affected by austerity cuts are all affected by public law decisions. There are instances with these matters and others where a legal challenge maybe possible.
How do public bodies overstep the mark?