Calvin v Carr: PC 15 Jan 1979

(New South Wales) It was argued that a decision of the stewards of the Australian Jockey Club was void for having been made in breach of the rules of natural justice.
Held: The stewards were entitled to use the evidence of their eyes and their experience in reaching their decision. The appeal process was an essentially domestic proceeding ‘in which experience and opinion as to what is in the interest of racing as a whole play a large part, and in which the standards are those which have come to be accepted over the history of this sporting activity.’
Following the Leary case: ‘In their Lordships’ judgment, such intermediate cases exist. In them, it is for the court . . to decide whether at the end of the day, there has been a fair result reached by fair methods . . Naturally there may be instances when the defect is so flagrant, the consequences so severe, that the most perfect appeals or rehearings will not be sufficient to produce a just result . . There may also be cases when the appeal process itself is less than perfect: it may be vitiated by the same defect as the original proceedings: or short of that there may be doubts whether the appeal body embarked on its task without predisposition or whether it had the means to make a full and fair enquiry, for example where it has no material but a transcript of what was before the original body. In such cases it would no doubt be right to quash the original decision.’
and ‘What is important is the recognition that such cases exist, and that it is undesirable in many cases of domestic disputes, particularly in which an inquiry and appeal process has been established, to introduce too great a measure of formal judicialisation.’
Lord Wilberforce said: ‘those who have joined in an organisation or contract, should be taken to have agreed to accept what in the end is a fair decision, notwithstanding some initial defect’. The Board considered whether there was a general rule that internal appellate proceedings could cure a defect caused by a failure of natural justice in the original proceedings: ‘. . . their Lordships recognise and indeed assert that no clear and absolute rule can be laid down on the question whether defects in natural justice appearing at the original hearing, whether administrative or quasi-judicial, can be ‘cured’ through appeal proceedings. The situations in which this issue arises are too diverse, and the rules by which they are governed so various, that this must be so.’
and ‘This argument led necessarily into the difficult area of what is void and what is voidable, as to which some confusion exists in the authorities. Their Lordships opinion would be, if it became necessary to fix on one or other of these expressions, that a decision made contrary to natural justice is void, but that, until it is so declared by a competent body or court, it may have some effect, or existence, in law. This condition might be better expressed by saying that the decision is invalid or vitiated. In the present context, where the question is whether an appeal lies, the impugned decision cannot be considered as totally void, in the sense of being legally non-existent. So to hold would be wholly unreal.’

Wilberforce, Dilhorne, Hailsham of St Marylebone, Keith of Kinkel LL
[1979] UKPC 1, [1979] 2 All ER 440, [1980] AC 574, [1979] 2 WLR 755
Bailii, Bailii
Applied but limitedLeary v National Union of Vehicle Builders 1971
The court faced questions on a trades union’s decision as to the membership of the applicant.
Held: As a general rule, ‘a failure of natural justice in the trial body cannot be cured by a sufficiency of natural justice in an appellate body.’ . .

Cited by:
CitedRegina (DR) (AM) v St George’s Catholic School and Others, Regina (A) v Kingsmead School Governors and Another CA 13-Dec-2002
The applicants appealed the refusal of judicial review of the refusals of their appeals against exclusion from school.
Held: The Act provided a full appeal procedure from the initial decision of the school’s head teacher, first to the . .
CitedBoddington v British Transport Police HL 2-Apr-1998
The defendant had been convicted, under regulations made under the Act, of smoking in a railway carriage. He sought to challenge the validity of the regulations themselves. He wanted to argue that the power to ban smoking on carriages did not . .
CitedFlaherty v National Greyhound Racing Club Ltd CA 14-Sep-2005
The club regulated greyhound racing. The claimant had complained that its disciplinary proceedings had been conducted unfairly. He said that a panel member had an interest as veterinary surgeon in the proceedings at the stadium at which the alleged . .
CitedWhitbread and Co plc v Mills EAT 1988
Where there had been defects in the procedure adopted at a disciplinary hearing, an appeal which was restricted to a review and was not a rehearing could not remedy the defects of the original hearing.
As to the case of Calvin v Carr: . .
CitedTaylor v OCS Group Ltd CA 31-May-2006
The employer appealed against findings of unfair dismissal and disability discrimination. The employee worked in IT. He was profoundly deaf, but could lip read and read sign language. He had been accused of obtaining improper access to a senior . .
CitedLondon and Clydeside Estates v Aberdeen District Council HL 8-Nov-1979
Identifying ‘maandatory’ and ‘regulatory’
The appellants had sought a Certificate of Alternative Development. The certificate provided was defective in that it did not notify the appellants, as required, of their right to appeal. Their appeal out of time was refused.
Held: The House . .
CitedMcKeown v British Horseracing Authority QBD 12-Mar-2010
The jockey claimant challenged disciplinary proceedings brought against him by the defendant authority.
Held: The findings were upheld in part but remitted for consideration of giving the claimant opportunity to challenge certain evidence. . .
CitedLloyd v McMahon HL 12-Mar-1987
The district auditor had issued a certificate under the 1982 Act surcharging the appellant councillors in the sum of 106,103, pounds being the amount of a loss incurred or deficiency caused, as the auditor found, by their wilful misconduct.
CitedMajera, Regina (on The Application of v Secretary of State for The Home Department SC 20-Oct-2021
The Court was asked whether the Government can lawfully act in a manner which is inconsistent with an order of a judge which is defective, without first applying for, and obtaining, the variation or setting aside of the order. The appellant had been . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Administrative, Employment, Commonwealth, Natural Justice

Leading Case

Updated: 01 November 2021; Ref: scu.245736