A coroner’s comment that the deceased’s relative was ‘unhinged’ displayed a bias which was irreparable. ‘The description ‘apparent bias’ traditionally given to this head of bias is not entirely apt, for if despite the appearance of bias the court is able to examine all the relevant material and satisfy itself that there was no danger [possibility] of the alleged bias having in fact caused injustice, the impugned decision will be allowed to stand’ and ‘the court’s task is to ascertain the relevant circumstances and ask itself whether, having regard to these circumstances, there was a real danger of bias on the part of HM Coroner for Inner West London in the sense that he might have unfairly regarded with disfavour the cases of the applicants as parties to an issue under consideration by him.’
Simon Brown LJ analysed the case of R v Gough: ‘From R v. Gough I derive the following propositions: (1) Any court seised of a challenge on the ground of apparent bias must ascertain the relevant circumstances and consider all the evidence for itself so as to reach its own conclusion on the facts. (2) It necessarily follows that the factual position may appear quite differently as between the time when the challenge is launched and the time when it comes to be decided by the court. What may appear at the leave stage to be a strong case of justice `not manifestly and undoubtedly being seen to be done’, may, following the court’s investigation, nevertheless fail. Or, of course, although perhaps less probably, the case may have become stronger. (3) In reaching its conclusion the court `personifies the reasonable man’. (4) The question upon which the court must reach its own factual conclusion is this: is there a real danger of injustice having occurred as a result of bias? By ‘real’ is meant not without substance. A real danger clearly involves more than a minimal risk, less than a probability. One could, I think, as well speak of a real risk or a real possibility. (5) Injustice will have occurred as a result of bias `if the decision-maker unfairly regarded with disfavour the case of a party to the issue under consideration by him’. I take `unfairly regarded with disfavour’ to mean `was pre-disposed or prejudiced against one party’s case for reasons unconnected with the merits of the issue’. (6) A decision-maker may have unfairly regarded with disfavour one party’s case either consciously or unconsciously. Where, as here, the applicants expressly disavow any suggestion of actual bias, it seems to me that the court must necessarily be asking itself whether there is a real danger that the decision-maker was unconsciously biased. (7) It will be seen, therefore, that by the time the legal challenge comes to be resolved, the court is no longer concerned strictly with the appearance of bias but rather with establishing the possibility that there was actual although unconscious bias.’
Simon Brown LJ, Sir Thomas Bingham MR
Independent 17-Jun-1994, Times 16-Jun-1994,  4 All ER 139
England and Wales
Explained – 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 . .
Explained – 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 v Coroner for Western District of Sussex Ex Parte Homberg Roberts and Mannerss QBD 27-Jan-1994
A Coroner’s enquires should be as to ‘how’ the death arose, and not into all the circumstances contributing to the death.
Simon Brown LJ said: ‘It is clear that the coroner’s over-riding duty is to inquire ‘how’ the deceased came by his death . .
Cited – Cairnstores Ltd Generics (UK) Ltd and Another v Aktiebolaget Hassle CA 22-Oct-2002
Two patents had been invaildated for obviousness. They related to coatings on medicinal pills. The patent holder said the judge’s interruptions indicated bias.
Held: The sumissions were unjustified. The interventions were by no means . .
Cited – Regina v Stipendiary Magistrate for Norfolk ex parte Dean Taylor Admn 1-Jul-1997
The prosecutor applied ex parte to the magistrate for an order that he need not disclose certain material to the defendant. Though the hearing was inter partes, the content of the protected material was not shown to the defendant’s solciitor. . .
Cited – Regina v H; Regina v C HL 5-Feb-2004
Use of Special Counsel as Last Resort Only
The accused faced charges of conspiring to supply Class A drugs. The prosecution had sought public interest immunity certificates. Special counsel had been appointed by the court to represent the defendants’ interests at the applications.
Cited – Lodwick v London Borough of Southwark CA 18-Mar-2004
The claimant alleged bias on the part of the employment appeal tribunal chairman hearing his appeal. The chairman refused to stand down, saying that he was only one of three tribunal members with an equal vote. The chairman had four year’s . .
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 – Flaherty 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 . .
Cited – Takoushis, Regina (on the Application of) v HM Coroner for Inner North London and others CA 30-Nov-2005
Relatives sought judicial review of the coroner’s decision not to allow a jury, and against allowance of an expert witness. The deceased had been a mental patient but had been arrested with a view to being hospitalised. He was taken first to the . .
Cited – Hurst, Regina (on the Application of) v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis v London Northern District Coroner HL 28-Mar-2007
The claimant’s son had been stabbed to death. She challenged the refusal of the coroner to continue with the inquest with a view to examining the responsibility of any of the police in having failed to protect him.
Held: The question amounted . .
Cited – McKeown 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. . .
Cited – Jones v HM Coroner for The Southern District of Greater London and Another Admn 28-Apr-2010
The mother of the deceased asked for a new inquest, saying that there had been insufficient enquiry. He was an adult suffering Asperger’s syndrome and other difficulties, but had sought and been given excess prescriptions of fentanyl a drug to . .
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 . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Coroners, Natural Justice
Updated: 11 December 2021; Ref: scu.86950