R v Disciplinary Committee of the Jockey Club, ex parte Aga Khan

Reference: [1993] 1 WLR 909

Court: Court of Appeal

Judge: Sir Thomas Bingham M.R., Farquharson and Hoffmann LJJ

Date of judgment: 4 Dec 1992


Judicial Review - Domestic tribunal - whether amenable to judicial review

Appearances: Patrick Milmo KC - Leading Counsel (Respondent) 

Instructing Solicitors: M McCloy & Ptnrs for the applicant; Charles Russell for the respondent


The Jockey Club, incorporated by Royal Charter, is responsible for the national regulation and organisation of racing. The club’s powers and duties do not derive from statute. Its importance within racing is maintained through the issue of licences and permits by which the club’s stewards enter into contracts with racecourse managers, owners, trainers and jockeys, who submit to the club’s comprehensive regulatory code, the Rules of Racing. The applicant, a racehorse owner registered with the club, had agreed to be bound by such rules. A filly owned by the applicant failed a urine test and was disqualified by the club’s disciplinary committee pursuant to the Rules of Racing. The applicant sought an order of certiorari to quash the committee’s decision. The Divisional Court dismissed the application. The applicant appealed.


Whether a decision of the disciplinary committee of the Jockey Club was amenable to judicial review.


Dismissing the appeal, the powers and duties of the Jockey Club, in spite of its dominant position in a national sport, were not of a governmental nature but derived from the private contractual agreements between the club and those who agreed to be bound by the Rules of Racing. Effective relief was available by means of an assertion of the applicant’s private law rights and, accordingly, the disciplinary committee’s decision was not amenable to judicial review.


This decision has been much-debated in the literature, where it has been suggested that things might be different after the Human Rights Act. However, the decisionwas apparently approved at first instance and on appeal post-HRA in R (Heather) v Leonard Cheshire Foundation (2001, 2002). In view of the decision of Richards J in Bradley v The Jockey Club (2004) that the standard of review in private law under the common law supervisory jurisdiction is similar to that in public law the significance of the distinction may be reducing.