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Law Notes Administrative Law Notes

Proceedural Fairness Notes

Updated Proceedural Fairness 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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Natural justice is concerned with how a decision is made (procedure), not the outcome / reasoning. If the procedure does not comply with natural justice, then the court will quash a decision.

Normative basis for the doctrine:

  • Instrumental: Procedures are not valuable in their own right, but are instrumental to other goods:

    • Proper procedures will allow the DM reach the right decision. Utilitarians stress the link between the grant of procedural protection and the quality of substantive outcomes.

    • Allows for public participation in the decision making process

  • Non-instrumental: there is an intrinsic value to proper procedures.

    • Proper procedures protect human dignity; allowing people a right to a hearing and an unbiased tribunal treats them with dignity

    • Rule of law: proper procedures ensure that public bodies comply with the law.

    • Justice must be seen to be done: proper procedures enhance public confidence in administrative / judicial systems.

Should we be concerned with fair procedure or just fair results tenable?

  • Lord Phillips in AF [2009]: “I do not believe that it is possible to draw a clear distinction between a fair procedure and a procedure that produces a fair result.” His point is that we are concerned with procure because of its impact on the result of the decision.

    • Although this assumes an instrumentalist view of natural justice.

  • Does a fair procedure deliver better decisions? While natural justice has always been applied to judicial decision making, it has now expanded to cover administrative decisions carried out in a quasi-judicial way. Risk is it will lead to the ‘judicialisation’ of administrative procedures.

    • Also the risk that procedural justice requirements are expensive and will divert public bodies resources away from other areas.

  • Denning in Evans suggests that the duty to act fairly may have such wide implications as to go beyond procedure. He notes that “the decision itself must be fair and reasonable.” However, Lord Hailsham noted the purpose of judicial review is to ensure that the individual receives fair treatment and not to ensure that the authority after according fair treatment, reaches on a matter which it is authorised by law to decide for itself a conclusion which is correct in the eyes of the court.”

Structure of natural justice:

  • Duty to give a fair hearing: right to know the case against you / respond to that case.

    • Protected interests

    • Content of fair hearing

    • Duty to give reasons

  • The rule against bias: DM should not be biased / appear to be biased

    • Participation of biased person

    • Preconceived views

The content of natural justice rules can vary greatly —their application is influenced by three factors:

  • Importance of the interest infringed

  • The value to C of the procedural right

  • The cost of providing the procedural safeguard.

When the court is considering a non-core procedural rights (e.g. right to cross examination), it will balance these factors. But core procedural rights (e.g. right to an unbiased trail) will apply automatically.


First developed in

  • Ridge v Baldwin [1946]: police officer dismissed without notice of case against him / opportunity to be heard. HL: decision was void for violating rules of natural justice. They rejected the notion that the rules of natural justice could only apply to decisions of quasi-judicial bodies, C must at least: (i) know the case against him; (ii) have the opportunity to be heard by the decision maker.

Context is everything in determining the content of a fair hearing: its core requirements are laid out in Ridge — C must know the case against him and be able to respond to it —but the specific application and intensity of those requirements varies depending on the nature of the case.

  • Re HK [1967]: immigration officer determined that C was over 16 and therefore should not be allowed to remain in the UK. CA: this decision was an administrative one and not a judicial / quasi-judicial one —given the conditions in which airport immigration officers work, having to make on-the-spot decisions, there were limits to the time he could invest in processing / investigating a case. In this case natural justice required him to “act fairly”.

  • Ex p Doody [1994]: HS had the power to determine length of life-sentences of prisoners. Prisoners argued HS had to tell them reasons for differing from the judge’s recommendation. HL: accepted the Cs argument. Prisoners had to be informed of reasons and given an opportunity to make representations. Lord Mustill: what procedural justice demands will vary from case to case, depending on context. A key factors is the statute conferring the discretion.

In setting the correct standard, the court has to be careful—there is often a need for informal procedures (where economy / expediency is needed, as in HK). Thus, in Bushell [1980] the HL found there was no right to cross-examination in a motorway planning inquiry:

  • Lord Diplock: to ‘over-judicialse’ the inquiry would not be desirable —it would be unfair given that parties may which to make representations without the expense of legal representation.

  • Lord Edmund-Davies (dissent): refusal of cross-examination is “clearly wrong” because the inspector, here, was performing quasi-judicial duties and must, do so in accordance with NJ.

Thus, where a body make as quasi-judicial decision it will come under the full duties of natural justice, but where the decision is administrative (i.e. HK) less stringent duties will be imposed. There is, a sliding scale between the full duties of natural justice and a more general duty of ‘fairness’.

  • McInnes v Onslow Fayne [1979]: C’s application for a boxing licence was refused without oral hearing / reasons for D’s decision. Megarry VC: D’s decision was valid —he was under a duty of fairness to reach an honest decision without bias and not in pursuance of a capricious policy, but there was no obligation to give C reasons. Three types of decision made by...

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