Lee v Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain: CA 1952

References: [1952] 2 QB 329, [1952] 1 All ER 1175
Coram: Denning LJ, Somervell LJ, Romer LJ
Ratio: Decisions of inferior tribunals, including arbitrators, were reviewable on the basis of general error of law on record for which certiorari might issue. A decision may be reviewable where there was no evidence supporting particular conclusions.
Denning LJ said: ‘The jurisdiction of a domestic tribunal, such as the committee of the Showmen’s Guild, must be founded on a contract, express or implied. Outside the regular courts of this country, no set of men can sit in judgment on their fellows except so far as Parliament authorises it or the parties agree to it.’ and
‘I see no reason why the powers of the court to intervene should be any less in the case of domestic tribunals. In each case it is a question of interpretation. In one of a statute, in the other of the rules, to see whether the Tribunal has observed the law. In the case of statutory tribunals, the injured party has a remedy by certiorari, and also a remedy by declaration and injunction. The remedy by certiorari does not lie to a domestic tribunal but the remedy by declaration and injunction does lie; and it can be as effective as, if not more effective than certiorari. It is, indeed, more effective, because it is not subject to the limitation that the error must appear on the face of the record.’ and
‘The committee cannot extend their jurisdiction by giving a wrong construction to the contract . . no matter how honest they may be. They have only such jurisdiction as the contract on its true interpretation confers on them, not what they think it confers. The scope of their jurisdiction is a matter of the courts.’ and
People have a right, unless expressly or impliedly debarred, to insist for free access to the courts of general jurisdiction of the state: ‘If parties should seek, by agreement, to take the law out of the hands of the courts and put it into the hands of a private tribunal, without any recourse at all to the courts in case of error of law, then the agreement is to that extent contrary to public policy and void.’
Romer LJ said: ‘The proper tribunals for the determination of legal disputes in this country are the courts, and they are the only tribunals which, by training and experience, and assisted by properly qualified advocates, are fitted for the task’
This case is cited by:

  • Approved – Faramus v Film Artistes’ Association HL ([1964] AC 925, [1964] 1 All ER 25)
    Parties to a contract may be bound to act in it according to the rules of natural justice. . .
  • Cited – Koeller and Another v Coleg Elidyr (Camphill Communities Wales) Ltd CA (Bailii, [2005] EWCA Civ 856, [2005] BCLC 379)
    The applicants occupied a house as licensees. An order for possession was made against them. The company was a charitable company set up to provide accomodation in communities for handicapped adults. The workers in the communities were not formally . .
  • Cited – Regina v The Imam of Bury Park Mosque, Luton and others ex parte Sualiman Ali CA (Times 15-May-93, Independent 13-Sep-93, Bailii, [1993] EWCA Civ 36)
    The court had been asked to intervene in an internal dispute as to the role of an Imam in a mosque community.
    Held: The request was denied. The case was not one of public law: ‘ the particular function which the Imam was performing affected . .
  • Cited – Foster v McNicol and Another QBD (Bailii, [2016] EWHC 1966 (QB))
    The claimant challenged a decision of the National executice Committee of the Labour Party to allow its present Leader to stand in the election challenging his position without the need for him to submit first the otherwise standard nominations from . .

(This list may be incomplete)

Last Update: 30-Jul-16
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