McInnes v Onslow-Fane: ChD 1978

The applicant had been granted a boxing manager’s licence for several years. He appealed its refusal now over a few years.
Held: The case was in the application for a licence rather than in a forfeiture or an expectation class, and there was no obligation to provide reasons for the decision. The exercise of a power revoking a licence will attract the rules of natural justice, particularly when the revocation results in the loss of a right to earn a livelihood or to carry on a financially rewarding activity.
Megarry VC drew a distinction between ‘forfeiture cases’ where an existing benefit such as a licence is terminated or revoked, ‘application cases’ where the grant of some new right or privilege is sought, and an intermediate group of ‘expectation cases’ which differ from the application cases only in that applicant has some legitimate expectation from what has already occurred that his or her application, such as for a licence renewal, will be granted. He discussed the critical distinctions between forfeiture, application and expectation cases: ‘It seems plain that there is a substantial distinction between the forfeiture cases and the application cases. In the forfeiture cases, there is a threat to take something away for some reason: and in such cases, the right to an unbiased tribunal, the right to notice of the charges and the right to be heard in answer to the charges . . are plainly apt. In the application cases, on the other hand, nothing is being taken away, and in all normal circumstances there are no charges, and so no requirement of an opportunity of being heard in answer to the charges. Instead, there is the far wider and less defined question of the suitability of the application for membership or a licence. The distinction is well-recognised, for in general it is clear that the courts will require natural justice to be observed for expulsion from a social club, but not on an application for admission to it. The intermediate category, that of the expectation cases, may at least in some respects be regarded as being more akin to the forfeiture cases than the application cases; for although in form there is no forfeiture but merely an attempt at acquisition that fails, the legitimate expectation of a renewal of the licence or confirmation of the membership is one which raises the question of what it is that has happened to make the applicant unsuitable for membership or licence for which he was previously thought suitable.’
‘I think that the courts must be slow to allow an implied obligation to be fair to be used as a means of bringing before the court for review honest decisions of bodies exercising jurisdiction over sporting and other activities which those bodies are far better fitted to judge than the courts. This is so even where those bodies are concerned with the means of livelihood of those who take part in those activities. The concepts of natural justice and the duty to be fair must not be allowed to discredit themselves by making unreasonable requirements and imposing undue burdens. Bodies such as the board which promote a public interest by seeking to maintain high standards in a field of activity which otherwise might easily become degraded and corrupt ought not to be hampered in their work without good cause.’

Sir Robert Megarry VC
[1978] 3 All ER 211, [1978] 1 WLR 1520
England and Wales
Cited by:
CitedKoeller and Another v Coleg Elidyr (Camphill Communities Wales) Ltd CA 12-Jul-2005
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 . .
ApprovedCowley v Heartley 24-Jul-1986
It is the courts’ function to control illegality and make sure that a body does not act outside its powers. . .
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 . .
CitedNaidike, Naidike and Naidike v The Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago PC 12-Oct-2004
(Trinidad and Tobago) The claimant was arrested following expiry of the last of his work permits and after he had failed to provide evidence of his intention to leave. As he was arrested he was also arrested for assaulting a police officer. He was . .
ApprovedCowley v Heatley ChD 24-Jul-1986
The court considered a challenge to the disciplinary procedures in the sport of swimming. Sir Nicolas Brown-Wilkinson VC said: ‘I am echoing the sentiments expressed by Sir Robert Megarry VC in McInness v Onslow-Fane [1978] 1 WLR 1520. At page 1535 . .
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. . .
CitedBradley v Jockey Club QBD 2004
The former jockey sought an injunction to restrain the respondent enforcing a ban it had imposed on him from working as a jockey for five years. The defendant had previously been ruled authoritatively not to be amenable to judicial review in public . .
CitedChambers v British Olympic Association QBD 18-Jul-2008
The claimant, a former Olypmic sprinter had now competed a ban after being found to have taken banned drugs. He had returned to the sprort but now challenged the policy of the respondent not to allow for consideration of the Olympic team, athletes . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Natural Justice, Contract

Leading Case

Updated: 01 November 2021; Ref: scu.188403