The recent case of Wiles v. Bothwell Castle Golf Club illustrates the fact that, in Scotland, it is not only pure public bodies that are subject to judicial review.  In particular, sporting bodies acting may also find themselves legally challenged by their members.

In this case, members of a golf club legitimately raised objections to the planning application of the club to build a new clubhouse. The objections were raised in response to their receiving neighbour notifications. Following a meeting of the Committee, the members were expelled for contravening a rule of the club Constitution.

Lord Glennie noted that a members' club, such as a golf club, is an unincorporated association and therefore has no legal persona. The relationship between the committee of such a club and its members (and indeed, between each and every member) is contractual. Furthermore, depending on the contract, members may agree to be bound by the decisions of the committee, including, should the club rules provide for it, decisions to expel members.  However, Lord Glennie later states "It is now clearly established that proceedings in court by a member to vindicate his rights are, in Scotland, now properly to be taken by way of judicial review", despite the essentially contractual nature of the issues in this case. 

Judicial review might, therefore, be a more effective remedy in circumstances where an organisation has gone beyond the powers provided to it under a constitution, statute or other governing document, regardless of whether that body is a public or private body. 

In this case, the court ruled that the decision to expel the members should be overturned; the conduct complained of did not in fact fall within the type of conduct which could be considered as being in breach of the relevant club rule and so expulsion was not justified.   Private bodies such as sports clubs should therefore tread carefully in the future to ensure that when making decisions, they act squarely within the powers provided to them under any constitution or rules and that they adhere to accepted standards of due process and natural justice.  This will help avoid the risk of subsequent court challenge by disgruntled members.

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