HIGH COURT REBUKES KNOX CITY COUNCIL and saves a dogs life – The Council Can’t be judge, jury and executioner

Wednesday , 25, November 2015 Leave a comment


HIGH COURT REBUKES KNOX CITY COUNCIL and saves a dogs life – The Council Can’t be judge, jury and executioner.

hca

Case : Isbester v Knox City Council [2015] HCA 20  (Isbester)

Issue : Whether an administrative decision was ‘biased’ because a person who participated in the making process had been the informant in a related prosecution.

Facts :

The appellant had been convicted in the Ringwood Magistrates’ Court of an offence[2] on a charge that her Staffordshire terrier had attacked a person and caused serious injury.

Following a hearing before a panel, a delegate of the Council who had been a member of that panel made a decision[3] that the appellant’s dog be destroyed.

Another member of the panel, who had participated fully in the panel’s decision-making process following the hearing and drafted the reasons for the decision, was an employee of the Council whose duties involved the regulation of domestic animals under the Act. She had been substantially involved in the prosecution of the charge in the Magistrates’ Court

Held : The High Court held that the decision-making process used by the Council’s delegate in exercising power[1] was contrary to natural justice because a fair-minded observer might reasonably apprehend that a person who took part in the decision-making might not have brought an impartial mind to the decision

Implications

The High Court has reinforced the importance of perceived fairness in decision-making processes and that it was as important as actual fairness.

This case has interesting implications for any Council or Government Regulator where Administrative decisions are involved and the person investigating is also prosecuting you and involved in the judgment.

As a result of this decision Councils and Government regulators will need to ensure their policies and procedures for making administrative decisions must be seen to be free from bias.

It means from now on the decision makers involved in an investigation of alleged offences and prosecutions or civil penalty litigation are separate to the decision makers involved in any related administrative decisions.

 

 

 

Footnotes.

[1] Domestic Animals Act 1994 (Vic) s 84P(e)

[2] Ibid s.29(4)

[3] Ibid s 84P(e)



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