Osgood v Nelson: HL 1872

The officer in question was an officer of the Corporation of the City of London, and he had been charged in general terms with neglect in the performance of his duty as Registrar of the Sheriffs’ Court. There was statutory power for the Corporation to dismiss the clerk to the Sheriff’s Court ‘in case of inability or misbehaviour or for any other cause which may appear reasonable’.
Held: There arose a duty before exercising the power of dismissal to give the officer an opportunity of knowing the charges and of the evidence in support of them and of producing such evidence as he desired to produce. Findings and decisions unsupported by evidence are capricious, unreasonable or arbitrary. In considering whether a conclusion was reasonably open to a domestic tribunal, it is appropriate to ask whether there was any evidence upon which a jury might have come to the conclusion reached.
Lord Hatherley LC said: ‘I apprehend, my Lords, that, as has been stated by the learned Baron who has delivered, in the name of the Judges, their unanimous opinion, the Court of Queen’s Bench has always considered that it has been open to that Court, as in this case it appears to have considered, to correct any Court, or tribunal, or body of men who may have a power of this description, a power of removing from office, if it should be found that such persons have disregarded any of the essentials of justice in the course of their enquiry, before making that removal, or if it should be found that in the place of reasonable cause those persons have acted obviously upon mere individual caprice’.
Lord Colonsay said: ‘Then it is said that the charge against him was too general in its character, it being merely that he had not performed his duties satisfactorily. I quite agree that if that had been the original charge against Mr. Osgood, and if he was called before this tribunal upon an allegation that he had not properly discharged the duties of his office, he was entitled to ask, and to require, that he should be told in what respect it was supposed that he had not properly discharged the duties of his office. But the matters in which it was said that he had neglected his duties, or that he had improperly performed them, were stated, to a certain extent, at the outset, and the rest were evolved in the course of the inquiry, and Mr. Osgood was afforded an opportunity of meeting them, and he did meet them. Whether he met them satisfactorily or not is a different question.’
. . And: ‘Now, if there had never been any specific statement, either made by Mr. Aikman or evolved in the course of the inquiry, I should have thought that that finding of the Common Council was very similar to what occurred in one of the cases which has been cited at the Bar, and that it would have been too vague for such a case. But when we see that there had been charges made, and matters particularly evolved in the course of the inquiry, I think the general finding must be referred to those matters, and taken as being a general conclusion derived from the inquiry into those matters.’
Lord Colonsay, Lord Hatherley LC
(1872) LR 5 HL 636
England and Wales
Cited by:
CitedKhanum v Mid Glamorgan Area Health Authority EAT 1979
In a domestic tribunal such as that a disciplinary hearing, all that is required is that the three basic requirements of natural justice be fulfilled; namely (1) that the person should know the nature of the accusation against him or her; (2) that . .
CitedRidge v Baldwin (No 1) HL 14-Mar-1963
No Condemnation Without Opportunity For Defence
Ridge, a Chief Constable, had been wrongfully dismissed because he was not given the opportunity of presenting his defence. He had been acquitted of the charges brought against him, but the judge at trial had made adverse comments about his . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Updated: 08 October 2021; Ref: scu.518489