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 against the applicant, and as a party.
Held: The House is unfettered by statute in its freedom to correct an injustice it had itself created. No financial interest was involved. Here there was a distinction between the two arms of the Amnesty International organisation, but that was not sufficient. Lord Hoffmann was an officer of the charitable arm, and that was sufficient to make him a party to the case. The maxim ‘nemo judex in sua causa’ was to be applied. The fact that a person has the necessary training and qualifications to resist any tendency towards bias is not relevant when considering whether there was an appearance of bias. The decision was set aside.
Lord Browne-Wilkinson said: ‘My Lords, in my judgment, although the cases have all dealt with automatic disqualification on the grounds of pecuniary interest, there is no good reason in principle for so limiting automatic disqualification. The rationale of the whole rule is that a man cannot be a judge in his own cause. In civil litigation the matters in issue will normally have an economic impact; therefore a judge is automatically disqualified if he stands to make a financial gain as a consequence of his own decision of the case. But if, as in the present case, the matter at issue does not relate to money or economic advantage but is concerned with the promotion of the cause, the rationale disqualifying a judge applies just as much if the judge’s decision will lead to the promotion of a cause in which the judge is involved together with one of the parties.’ and
‘It is important not to overstate what is being decided. It was suggested in argument that a decision setting aside the order of 25 November 1998 would lead to a position where judges would be unable to sit on cases involving charities in whose work they are involved. It is suggested that, because of such involvement, a judge would be disqualified. That is not correct. The facts of this present case are exceptional. The critical elements are (1) that A.I. was a party to the appeal; (2) that A.I. was joined in order to argue for a particular result; (3) the judge was a director of a charity closely allied to A.I. and sharing, in this respect, A.I.’s objects. Only in cases where a judge is taking an active role as trustee or director of a charity which is closely allied to and acting with a party to the litigation should a judge normally be concerned either to recuse himself or disclose the position to the parties. However, there may well be other exceptional cases in which the judge would be well advised to disclose a possible interest.’
Lord Hutton said: ‘there could be cases where the interest of the judge in the subject matter of the proceedings arising from his strong commitment to some cause or belief or his association with a person or body involved in the proceedings could shake public confidence in the administration of justice as much as a shareholding (which might be small) in a public company involved in the litigation.’
Lord Browne-Wilkinson, Lord Goff of Chieveley Lord Nolan, Lord Hope of Craighead, Lord Hutton
Times 18-Jan-1999, Gazette 10-Feb-1999,  UKHL 1,  1 AC 119,  1 All ER 577,  2 WLR 272, 6 BHRC 1,  NLJR 88,  UKHL 52
England and Wales
Cited – McGovern v Attorney-General ChD 1982
Amnesty International established a trust with a view to obtaining charitable status for some of its activities.
Held: The trust established to promote certain of its objects was not charitable because it was established for political purpose; . .
Cited – Regina v Gough (Robert) HL 1993
The defendant had been convicted of robbery. He appealed, saying that a member of the jury was a neighbour to his brother, and there was therefore a risk of bias. This was of particular significance as the defendant was charged with conspiracy with . .
Cited – Webb and Hay v The Queen 30-Jun-1994
(Australia) Criminal Law – Jury – Impartiality – Murder trial – Juror giving flowers to victim’s mother – Whether juror or jury to be discharged Appropriate test – Reasonable apprehension of lack of impartiality or real danger of lack of . .
Cited – Cassell and Co Ltd v Broome (No 2) HL 24-Feb-1972
Their Lordships varied an order for costs already made by the House in circumstances where the parties had not had a fair opportunity to address argument on the point. As the ultimate court of appeal, the House has power to correct any injustice . .
Cited – Dimes v Proprietors of Grand Junction Canal and others HL 26-Jun-1852
The Lord Chancellor, Lord Cottenham, owned a substantial shareholding in the defendant canal which was an incorporated body. He sat on appeal from the Vice-Chancellor, whose judgment in favour of the company he affirmed. There was an appeal on the . .
Cited – Rex v Sussex Justices, Ex parte McCarthy KBD 9-Nov-1923
Clerk wrongly retired with Justices
There had been a prosecution before the lay magistrates for dangerous driving. Unknown to the defendant and his solicitors, the Clerk to the Justices was a member of the firm of solicitors acting in a civil claim against the defendant arising out of . .
Cited – Taylor v Lawrence CA 4-Feb-2002
A party sought to re-open a judgment on the Court of Appeal after it had been perfected. A case had been tried before a judge. One party had asked for a different judge to be appointed, after the judge disclosed that he had been a client of the firm . .
Cited – Mason, Wood, McClelland, Tierney v Regina CACD 13-Feb-2002
The appellants appealed their convictions on two grounds. First the judge who had heard the case was an acquaintance of the chief constable of the investigating force, and second evidence had been admitted of tape recordings of non-privileged . .
Cited – Regina v Secretary of State for Home Department ex parte Augusto Pinochet Ugarte Admn 27-May-1999
The applicant, the former president of Chile, sought to challenge an order allowing an application for his extradition to proceed. He said that once the matters deemed inadmissible had been excluded, there was insufficicient ground to allow the . .
Cited – Meerabux 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 – In Re Medicaments and Related Classes of Goods (No 2); Director General of Fair Trading v Proprietary Association of Great Britain and Proprietary Articles Trade Association CA 21-Dec-2000
The claimants alleged that a connection between a member of the Restrictive Practices Court, who was to hear a complaint and another company, disclosed bias against them. She had not recused herself.
Held: When asking whether material . .
Cited – National Westminster Bank plc v Spectrum Plus Limited and others HL 30-Jun-2005
Former HL decision in Siebe Gorman overruled
The company had become insolvent. The bank had a debenture and claimed that its charge over the book debts had become a fixed charge. The preferential creditors said that the charge was a floating charge and that they took priority.
Held: The . .
Cited – Port Regis School Ltd, Regina (on the Application of) v Gillingham and Shaftesbury Agricultural Society Admn 5-Apr-2006
Complaint was made that the decision of a planning committee had been biased because of the presence on the committee of two freemasons, and where the interests of another Lodge were affected.
Held: The freemasonry interests had been declared. . .
Cited – 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 . .
Cited – Yemoh and Others v Regina CACD 22-May-2009
The defendants appealed saying that the judge had failed to disclose that a jury member was a serving police officer, and also complained of the judge’s directions on the ‘fundamentally different’ test applicable to cases of murder and manslaughter. . .
Cited – Asda Stores Ltd v Thompson, Pullan, and Caller EAT 16-Jun-2003
The appellants had been dismissed after investigations satisfied the employer that the employees had been using illegal drugs. Cross appeals were made in the following misconduct unfair dismissal claim. The employees complained of the use of . .
Cited – Regina v KS CACD 17-Nov-2009
The jury had been discharged by the judge after finding jury tampering, and he decided to continue alone. The jury had not known of the earlier convictions of others involved in the alleged conspiracy, but the judge did and he had made reference to . .
Cited – Kaur, Regina (on The Application of) v Institute of Legal Executives Appeal Tribunal and Another CA 19-Oct-2011
The claimant appealed against rejection of judicial review of a finding that she had effectively cheated at a professional examination for the Institute. She compained that the presence of a director and the council’s vice-president of the Institute . .
Cited – Locabail (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 . .
Cited – Bancoult, Regina (on The Application of) v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (No 2) SC 29-Jun-2016
Undisclosed Matter inadequate to revisit decision
The claimant sought to have set aside a decision of the House of Lords as to the validity of the 2004 Order, saying that it had been based on a failure by the defendant properly to disclose matters it was under a duty of candour to disclose.
Natural Justice, Litigation Practice
Updated: 10 November 2021; Ref: scu.158984