Davidson v Scottish Ministers: HL 15 Jul 2004

The claimant had sought damages for the conditions in which he had been held in prison in Scotland. He later discovered that one of the judges had acted as Lord Advocate representing as to the ability of the new Scottish Parliamentary system to resist claims for damages, and now complained of bias.
Held: Though the particular judge was clearly above criticism, a ‘fair-minded and informed observer, having considered the facts, would conclude that there was a real possibility that the tribunal was biased.’ It would be difficult to lay down a clear line, but in this case, a litigant might he would be affected by a desire in the judge not to breach a promise he had made to the Scottish Parliament. In many cases, a judge having declared his previous actions would be welcomed by the parties, but if not, he should be ready to recuse himself if necessary.
Lord Bingham of Cornhill said: ‘The rule of law requires that judicial tribunals established to resolve issues arising between citizen and citizen, or between the citizen and the state, should be independent and impartial. This means that such tribunals should be in a position to decide such issues on their legal and factual merits as they appear to the tribunal, uninfluenced by any interest, association or pressure extraneous to the case. Thus a judge will be disqualified from hearing a case (whether sitting alone, or as a member of a multiple tribunal) if he or she has a personal interest which is not negligible in the outcome, or is a friend or relation of a party or a witness, or is disabled by personal experience from bringing an objective judgment to bear on the case in question. Where a feature of this kind is present, the case is usually categorised as one of actual bias. But the expression is not a happy one, since bias suggests malignity or overt partiality, which is rarely present. What disqualifies the judge is the presence of some factor which could prevent the bringing of an objective judgment to bear, which could distort the judge’s judgment.’
Lord Bingham of Cornhill, Lord Woolf, Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead, Lord Hope of Craighead, Lord Cullen of Whitekirk
2004 GWD 27-572, [2004] UKHL 34, Times 16-Jul-2004, 2005 1 SC (HL) 7, 2004 SLT 895, [2004] UKHRR 1079, [2004] HRLR 34, [2005] ACD 19, 2004 SCLR 991
House of Lords, Bailii
Appeal fromScott Davidson v The Scottish Ministers (No 2) IHCS 11-Sep-2002
. .
CitedLocabail (UK) Ltd, Regina v Bayfield Properties Ltd CA 17-Nov-1999
Adverse Comments by Judge Need not be Show of Bias
In five cases, leave to appeal was sought on the basis that a party had been refused disqualification of judges on grounds of bias. The court considered the circumstances under which a fear of bias in a court may prove to be well founded: ‘The mere . .
CitedMcDonald v Secretary of State for Scotland IHCS 2-Feb-1994
The pursuer, a prisoner, complained that he had been subject to repeated searches which he claimed were illegal. He sought damages and an injunction.
Held: The action which the pursuer had raised was an ordinary action in the sheriff court was . .
CitedProcola v Luxembourg ECHR 28-Sep-1995
A dairy association complained of milk quota orders made with retrospective effect under domestic provisions. A regulation had been submitted in draft to the Conseil d’Etat, which had advised that a statute was necessary to give retrospective effect . .
CitedMcGonnell v The United Kingdom ECHR 8-Feb-2000
The applicant owned land in the parish of St Martin’s in Guernsey. He made a number of applications for planning permission for residential use, but they were all rejected. In about 1986 he moved into a converted packing shed on his land. In 1988 a . .
CitedPabla Ky v Finland ECHR 22-Jun-2004
A member of the Finnish Parliament who also sat as an expert member of the Court of Appeal was said to lack independence as a judge.
Held: The complaint was rejected. Also there was no no objective justification for the applicant’s fear as to . .
CitedKartinyeri v Commonwealth of Australia 1998
(Australia) Objection was taken to the participation of a judge in a High Court decision on the constitutionality of a Commonwealth statute, on the basis that the judge, as counsel, had given an opinion on the point. The judge concluded that he . .
CitedPanton and Panton v The Minister of Finance and the Attorney General PC 12-Jul-2001
(Jamaica) The appellants were shareholders in failed financial institutions. Arrangements were made which compensated creditors and depositors, through the contribution of funds by the government, but shareholders were not compensated. The Attorney . .
CitedM v Home Office and Another; In re M HL 27-Jul-1993
A Zairian sought asylum, but his application, and an application for judicial review were rejected. He was notified that he was to be returned to Zaire, but then issued new proceedings for judicial review. The judge said that his removal should be . .
CitedMcDonald v Secretary of State for Scotland ScSf 1994
The pursuer was a serving prisoner. He said he had been repeatedly searched without lawful authority, warrant or justifiable cause. He raised an action of reparation in the sheriff court in which he sought damages from the Secretary of State for . .
CitedRe S (Children: Care Plan); In re W and B (Children: Care plan) In re W (Child: Care plan) HL 14-Mar-2002
The Court of Appeal had imposed conditions upon the care plan to be implemented by the local authorities, identifying certain ‘starred’ essential milestones. The local authorities appealed.
Held: This was not a legitimate extension of the . .
CitedMillar v Dickson PC 24-Jul-2001
The Board was asked whether the appellants had waived their right to an independent and impartial tribunal under article 6 of the Convention by appearing before the temporary sheriffs without objecting to their hearing their cases on the ground that . .
CitedEntick v Carrington KBD 1765
The Property of Every Man is Sacred
The King’s Messengers entered the plaintiff’s house and seized his papers under a warrant issued by the Secretary of State, a government minister.
Held: The common law does not recognise interests of state as a justification for allowing what . .

Cited by:
Appealed toScott Davidson v The Scottish Ministers (No 2) IHCS 11-Sep-2002
. .
CitedAl-Hasan, Regina (on the Application of) v Secretary of State for the Home Department HL 16-Feb-2005
Prisoners were disciplined after refusing to be squat searched, saying that the procedure was humiliating and that there were no reasonable grounds to suspect them of any offence against prison discipline. The officer who had been involved in . .
CitedAl-Hasan, Regina (on the Application of) v Secretary of State for the Home Department HL 16-Feb-2005
Prisoners were disciplined after refusing to be squat searched, saying that the procedure was humiliating and that there were no reasonable grounds to suspect them of any offence against prison discipline. The officer who had been involved in . .
See AlsoDavidson v Scottish Ministers HL 15-Dec-2005
The complainant a prisoner sought an order that he should not be kept in conditions found to be inhumane. He had been detained in Barlinnie priosn. The Crown replied that a mandatory order was not available against the Scottish Ministers.
CitedKaur, Regina (on The Application of) v Institute of Legal Executives Appeal Tribunal and Another CA 19-Oct-2011
The claimant appealed against rejection of judicial review of a finding that she had effectively cheated at a professional examination for the Institute. She compained that the presence of a director and the council’s vice-president of the Institute . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Updated: 26 October 2021; Ref: scu.198760