Public Interest in UK Courts
Welcome to this website which introduces the findings of a project exploring what the term "public interest" means.
The project is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. This is the UK's largest organisation for funding research on economic and social issues. It supports independent, high quality research which has an impact on business, the public sector and the third sector. The project is based in the Law School at Queen’s University Belfast and is led by Professor Gordon Anthony with co-researchers Professor john Morison and Dr Dimitrios Doukas. The project was also supported by the research assistance of Ms Leanne Cochrane.
The research started on the 1st November 2009 and runs until December 2011. The main task of the project is to examine how the term "public interest" is used in public law proceedings in UK courts. While the phrase “public interest” is used in many ways in political philosophy and the study of public administration, the central question investigated in the project is:
“How is the term ‘public interest’ used in public law proceedings in UK courts, and what do the uses reveal about contemporary constitutionalism in the United Kingdom?”
The core objective of the work is to develop a taxonomy of uses of the phrase, and, in this way, to give more concrete meaning to the term. The project provides a breakdown of the areas of public law in which the term is mobilised in courts; assesses who uses the term, and why; and delimits the practical implications of its use. The project also considers how far use of the term is being determined by related conceptions of public interest found in the case law of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).
By researching how the term "public interest" has been used in reported cases, and by interviewing judges, legal practitioners and others, the project has developed a taxonomy of uses of public interest in the UK courts.
It is hoped that public decision-makers, journalists and others who use the term public interest during their work will find something of interest on this website.