Helow v Secretary of State for the Home Department and Another: HL 22 Oct 2008

The appellant, a Palestinian, challenged the involvement of Lady Cosgrove as a judge in her case, saying that Lady Cosgrove’s involvement as a jew in pro-Jewish lobby organisations meant that there was an appearance of bias. The applicant had sought asylum, saying that she had fled Palestine after taking legal action against the president of Israel.
Held: The claimant’s appeal was dismissed. A judge who had expressed, or was President of an Association which had expressed, views of the nature summarised and set out above could not sit on an application such as this. A fair-minded observer would regard such a judge as too closely and overtly committed to supporting the cause of Israel generally and of Mr Sharon in relation to the Sabra/Shatila massacre. It would not be appropriate for her to decide a case in which the appellant was relying on her past conduct and condemnation regarding Israel’s and Mr Sharon’s involvement in the Sabra/Shatila massacre as a main basis for her fear of reprisals if she was returned to Lebanon.
However, there was no basis for attributing the more extreme views of senior members of the organistion to the judge. It was not suggested that she had expressed any such view, and nor did the association’s objects encompass such views.
Lord Hope described the characteristics of the notional fair-minded and informed observer: ‘The observer who is fair-minded is the sort of person who always reserves judgment on every point until she has seen and fully understood both sides of the argument. She is not unduly sensitive or suspicious, as Kirby J observed in Johnson v Johnson (2000) 201 CLR 488, 509, para 53. Her approach must not be confused with that of the person who has brought the complaint. The ‘real possibility’ test ensures that there is this measure of detachment. The assumptions that the complainer makes are not to be attributed to the observer unless they can be justified objectively. But she is not complacent either. She knows that fairness requires that a judge must be, and must be seen to be, unbiased. She knows that judges, like anybody else, have their weaknesses. She will not shrink from the conclusion, if it can be justified objectively, that things that they have said or done or associations that they have formed may make it difficult for them to judge the case before them impartially.
3. Then there is the attribute that the observer is ‘informed’. It makes the point that, before she takes a balanced approach to any information she is given she will take the trouble to inform herself on all matters that are relevant. She is the sort of person who takes the trouble to read the text of an article as well as the headlines. She is able to put whatever she has read or seen into its overall social, political or geographical context. She is fair-minded, so she will appreciate that the context forms an important part of the material which she must consider before passing judgment.’

Lord Hope of Craighead, Lord Rodger of Earlsferry, Lord Walker of Gestingthorpe, Lord Cullen of Whitekirk, Lord Mance
[2008] UKHL 62, [2008] 1 WLR 2416, 2008 SCLR 830, (2008) 152(41) SJLB 29, [2009] 2 All ER 1031, 2009 SC (HL) 1, 2008 GWD 35-520, 2008 SLT 967
Bailii, HL, Times
Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002
Appeal fromHelow v Advocate General for Scotland and Another SCS 16-Jan-2007
. .
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 . .
CitedJohnson v Johnson 7-Sep-2000
(High Court of Australia) When looking to test whether a member of the public would perceive bias in a court, it is unnecessary to delve into the characteristics to be attributed to the fair-minded and informed observer. One is entitled to conclude . .
CitedPorter and Weeks v Magill HL 13-Dec-2001
Councillors Liable for Unlawful Purposes Use
The defendant local councillors were accused of having sold rather than let council houses in order to encourage an electorate which would be more likely to be supportive of their political party. They had been advised that the policy would be . .
CitedRegina v Bow Street Metropolitan Stipendiary Magistrate, ex parte Pinochet Ugarte (No 2) HL 15-Jan-1999
A petition was brought to request that a judgment of the House be set aside because the wife of one their lordships, Lord Hoffmann, was as an unpaid director of a subsidiary of Amnesty International which had in turn been involved in a campaign . .
CitedDavidson 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.
CitedGillies v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions HL 26-Jan-2006
The claimant said that the medical member of the tribunal which had heard his disability claim was biased. The doctor was on a temporary contract and also worked for an agency which contracted directly the Benfits Agency. The court of session had . .
CitedMeerabux v The Attorney General of Belize PC 23-Mar-2005
(Belize) The applicant complained at his removal as a justice of the Supreme Court, stating it was unconstitutional. The complaint had been decided by a member of the Bar Council which had also recommended his removal, and he said it had been . .
CitedMamatkulov and Askarov v Turkey ECHR 4-Feb-2005
(Grand Chamber) The applicants had resisted extradition to Uzbekistan from Turkey to stand trial on very serious charges, saying that if returned they would be tortured. There was material to show that that was not a fanciful fear. On application . .
CitedMeerabux v The Attorney General of Belize PC 23-Mar-2005
(Belize) The applicant complained at his removal as a justice of the Supreme Court, stating it was unconstitutional. The complaint had been decided by a member of the Bar Council which had also recommended his removal, and he said it had been . .

Cited by:
CitedO’Neill v Her Majesty’s Advocate No 2 SC 13-Jun-2013
The appellants had been convicted of murder, it being said that they had disposed of her body at sea. They now said that the delay between being first questioned and being charged infringed their rights to a trial within a reasonable time, and . .
CitedAmeyaw v McGoldrick and Others QBD 6-Jul-2020
Recusal Refused – former Pupil Master
Request for recusal – the judge was said to have been a member of the same chambers as counsel for the claimant and had been his mentor.
Held: Refused: ‘It was untenable to contend that there was an appearance of bias in circumstances where . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Legal Professions, Immigration, Natural Justice

Updated: 09 November 2021; Ref: scu.277128