The applicant had been convicted by the Justices on charges of offences under the Food and Drugs Act 1938 which had been brought under the authority of the Health Committee of the Cornwall County Council. The Clerk to the Justices was a councillor member of the Council, but he did not serve on the Health Committee. An apparent bias was alleged against the Clerk. The Solicitor General, Sir Reginald Manningham-Buller, QC as amicus submitted that the correct test was whether or not there was a ‘real likelihood’ of bias, that is ‘something to which a person in possession of such facts as are readily available to him would take exception to’.
Held: The court found that the clerk had been asked to advise on the law only. As to the test of bias ‘a real likelihood of bias must be made to appear not only from the materials in fact ascertained by the party complaining, but from such further facts as he might readily have ascertained and easily verified in the course of his inquiries.’ and ‘The frequency with which allegations of bias have come before the courts in recent times seems to indicate that Lord Hewart’s reminder in the Sussex Justices case that it ‘is of fundamental importance that justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done’ is being urged as a warrant for quashing convictions or invalidating orders upon quite unsubstantial grounds and, indeed, in some cases upon the flimsiest pretexts of bias. Whilst indorsing and fully maintaining the integrity of the principle reasserted by Lord Hewart, this court feels that the continued citation of it in cases to which it is not applicable may lead to the erroneous impression that it is more important that justice should appear to be done than that it should in fact be done.’ However: ‘There is no doubt that any direct pecuniary interest, however small, in the subject of inquiry, does disqualify a person from acting as a judge in the matter . .’
The court refused an application made on behalf of the justices for their costs to be paid by the solicitor who acted for the applicant. The 1872 Act gave the justices the right to file an affidavit in reply to the evidence of the applicant, and as there was no allegation of misconduct against the justices there was no need for them to have been represented by counsel. ‘It is, of course, clear that any direct pecuniary or proprietary interest in the subject-matter of a proceeding, however small, operates as an automatic disqualification.’
Slade J, Goddard LJ
 2 All ER 850,  1 QB 41
Review of Justices’ Decisions Act 1872 3
England and Wales
Approved – Regina v Rand 1866
A judge with an interest in a case, or is a party to it, will be debarred from hearing it.
Blackburn J said: ‘There is no doubt that any direct pecuniary interest, however small, in the subject of inquiry, does disqualify a person from acting . .
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 – Regina on the Application of Davies (No 2) v HM Deputy Coroner for Birmingham CA 27-Feb-2004
The claimant appealed against a costs order. She had previously appealed against an order of the High Court on her application for judicial review of the inquest held by the respondent.
Held: The coroner, and others in a similar position . .
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 – 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 – 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 . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Magistrates, Natural Justice
Updated: 31 October 2021; Ref: scu.194531