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Procedural Fairness Rule Against Bias & Right To Fair Hearing Problem Question Notes Notes

Updated Procedural Fairness Rule Against Bias & Right To Fair Hearing Problem Question Notes Notes

Administrative Law Notes

Administrative Law

Approximately 1167 pages

Administrative Law notes fully updated for recent exams at Oxford and Cambridge. These notes cover all the major LLB aspects and so are perfect for anyone doing an LLB in the UK or a great supplement for those doing LLBs abroad, whether that be in Ireland, Canada, Hong Kong or Malaysia (University of London). These notes were formed directly from a reading of the cases and main texts and are vigorous, concise and very well written. Everything is conveniently split up by topic as you can see by th...

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Rule against bias, i.e. impartiality

PQ Approach

After considering common law bias, do not forget Art 6 ECHR if it is relevant on the facts.

For common law bias, always begin with automatic disqualification (for both financial and non-financial interests). If this is not possible, hedge your argument with the FMIO test.

NB. the implication of a determination of bias is that the decision-maker would be disqualified. This has ramifications. For e.g., where on the facts, the statute does not make clear who else would make the decision, this might be a problem.

Why is impartiality important?

  1. Actual fairness

  2. Appearance of fairness. This reflects a key policy objective of preserving public trust in administrative and judicial bodies, such that individuals are willing to co-operate with public authorities to secure effective administration.

  • R v Sussex Justices, ex parte McCarthy [1924] 1 KB 256:

Facts: W, represented by firm X, sued M in civil proceedings (Whitworth v McCarthy). At the same time, M was being prosecuted for a road traffic offence (Crown v McCarthy), and the clerk to the justices in the magistrates’ court was a partner in firm X. He had retired with the justices, but had not been consulted while the justices were coming to their decision. M then sought a quashing order in respect of his conviction on the basis of the clerk’s influence.

Analysis: the clerk has not materially influenced the decision of the judges. So actual fairness was not an issue.

Verdict: Successful. While the clerk did not materially influence the outcome, Lord Hewart CJ made it clear that justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done.

Lord Hewart CJ at 258-259: ‘It is said, and, no doubt, truly, that when that gentleman retired in the usual way with the justices, taking with him the notes of the evidence in case the justices might desire to consult him, the justices came to a conclusion without consulting him, and that he scrupulously abstained from referring to the case in any way. But while that is so, a long line of cases shows that it is not merely of some importance but is of fundamental importance that justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done. The question therefore is not whether in this case the deputy clerk made any observation or offered any criticism which he might not properly have made or offered; the question is whether he was so related to the case in its civil aspect as to be unfit to act as clerk to the justices in the criminal matter. The answer to that question depends not upon what actually was done but upon what might appear to be done. Nothing is to be done which creates even a suspicion that there has been an improper interference with the course of justice.’

Automatic disqualification

  1. Financial interests

  • Dimes v The Proprietors of the Grand Junction Canal (1852)

Facts: Lord Cottenham LC granted relief to the respondent company, which he held shares in. It was argued that the validity of his actions was in question and the decision should be set aside.

Verdict: Successful.

Lord Campbell at 793: ‘No one can suppose that Lord Cottenham could be, in the remotest degree, influenced by the interest that he had in this concern’. But no-one is to be ‘a judge in his own cause’ (nemo judex in causa sua).

In the past, any financial interest will disqualify a decision-maker.

  • R v Rand (1865-66) LR 1 QB 230, Blackburn J at 232:

‘any direct pecuniary interest, however small, in the subject of inquiry, does disqualify a person from acting as a judge in the matter’.

  • R v Camborne Justices, ex parte Pearce [1955] 1 QB 41, Slade J at 47:

‘It is, of course, clear that any direct pecuniary or proprietary interest in the subject-matter of a proceeding, however small, operates as in automatic disqualification. In such a case the law assumes bias.’

Now, however, there is a de minimis exception:

  • Locabail (UK) Ltd v Bayfield Properties Ltd [2000] QB 451, at [10]:

Facts: L was a secured creditor who had given a loan to E. The loan was secured on his property. E’s wife claimed she had a share in some of E’s property. S was an unsecured creditor who had given another loan to E.

It would help S if E’s wife lost her case, because there would be more of E’s property for S to claim out of, if E defaulted on his loan. The judge deciding E’s wife’s cases was a partner in HS, a client of S.

A diagram of the financial relations in this case:

Verdict: ‘While the older cases speak of disqualification if the judge has an interest in the outcome of the proceedings “however small,” there has in more recent authorities been acceptance of a de minimis exception’.

  1. Non-financial interest

Automatic disqualification for non-financial interests. The rule was extended on the basis of (i) maintaining the appearance of fairness (no space for fine distinctions if we want justice to be seen to be done) and (ii) on the lack of dichotomy between financial and non-financial interests when it comes to the rule “no many should be a party to his own cause”.

  • R v Bow Street Metropolitan Stipendiary Magistrates, ex parte Pinochet Ugarte (No 2) [2000] 1 AC 119

Verdict: decision in Pinochet (no 1) quashed.

Lord Browne-Wilkinson noted that automatic disqualification can extend beyond financial interests at 588: “[A]lthough the cases have all dealt with automatic disqualification on the grounds of pecuniary interest, there is no good reason in principle for so limiting automatic disqualification. The rationale of the whole rule is that a man cannot be a judge in his own cause.”

PQ approach: AQ triggered only when (i) a decision-maker is closely connected with a party to a case, and (ii) the decision-maker has a strong commitment to a certain subject matter or cause (Pinochet (No 2)).

NB. Pinochet (No 2) is exceptional and has been heavily criticised.

  • Helow v Secretary of State for the...

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