Dugdale v Kraft Foods Ltd: EAT 28 Oct 1976

In giving guidance on the use by industrial members of their life experience the EAT cautioned against an Employment Tribunal relying on the lay members’ experience to determine a case without giving the witness whose evidence they reject an opportunity to deal with the point(s) in issue. Provided that is done there is no reason why the members should not draw on their own knowledge and experience.
Phillips J said: ‘The members of industrial tribunals are appointed because of their special knowledge and experience, and we have no doubt that they are entitled to draw upon it in playing their part in assisting the tribunal as a whole to reach a decision. The main use which they will make of this knowledge and experience is for the purpose of explaining and understanding the evidence which they hear. Certainly, they are entitled to use their knowledge and experience to fill gaps in the evidence about matters which will be obvious to them but which might be obscure to a layman. More difficult is the case where evidence is given which is contrary to their knowledge and experience. If such an occasion arises, we think that they ought to draw to the attention of the witnesses the experience which seems to them to suggest that the evidence given is wrong, and ought not to prefer their own knowledge and experience without giving the witnesses an opportunity to deal with it. Provided that this opportunity is given there seems to us to be no reason why they should not draw on their own knowledge and experience in this way also. But it is highly desirable that in any case where particular use is made by an industrial tribunal of the knowledge and experience of one or more of their members in reaching their decision this fact should be stated, and that particulars of the matter taken into account should e fully disclosed.’
Phillips, J P
[1976] UKEAT 277 – 76 – 1076, [1976] 1 WLR 1288, (1979) 11 ITR 309, [1977] 1 All ER 454, [1977] IRLR 160
England and Wales

Updated: 22 February 2021; Ref: scu.392855