Chief Constable of the North Wales Police v Evans

JurisdictionUK Non-devolved
JudgeLord Hailsham of St. Marylebone,Lord Fraser of Tullybelton,Lord Roskill,Lord Bridge of Harwich,Lord Brightman
Judgment Date22 July 1982
Judgment citation (vLex)[1982] UKHL J0722-3
Date22 July 1982
CourtHouse of Lords
In re Evans

Lord Chancellor

Lord Fraser of Tullybelton

Lord Roskill

Lord Bridge of Harwich

Lord Brightman

House of Lords

Lord Hailsham of St. Marylebone

My Lords,


The analysis of the facts and argument contained in the speech of my noble and learned friend, Lord Brightman, which I have read in draft, relieve me of much of the labour in this case, and enable me to reduce the few observations I wish to make to reasonably concise proportions. I desire, however, to say at the outset that I agree with every word which is about to fall from my noble and learned friend as to the treatment to which this young respondent has been subjected by the appellant. Like my noble and learned friend, I do not doubt the appellant's good faith, but in the result, partly as the result of muddle, partly as the result of a false view of the law, and partly as the result of a disregard of the elementary principles of natural justice, I regard the treatment meted out to this young man as little short of outrageous.


Briefly, the proceedings originated in an application by the respondent for judicial review under R.S.C. Or. 53 of a decision by the appellant (then Chief Constable of the Police Force of North Wales) whereby in November 1978 he had given the respondent, at that time a probationary constable, the option of resignation from office or dismissal on a month's notice under Regulation 16 of the relevant Regulations. In the event, the respondent had chosen resignation, but had sought relief under R.S.C. Or. 53 on the basis that he had been treated unfairly and in a manner contrary to natural justice.


The first observation I wish to make is by way of criticism of some remarks of the learned Master of the Rolls which seem to me capable of an erroneous construction of the purpose of the remedy by way of judicial review under R.S.C. Or. 53. This remedy, vastly increased in extent, and rendered, over a long period in recent years, of infinitely more convenient access than that provided by the old prerogative writs and actions for a declaration, is intended to protect the individual against the abuse of power by a wide range of authorities, judicial, quasi judicial, and, as would originally have been thought when I first practised at the Bar, administrative. It is not intended to take away from those authorities the powers and discretions properly vested in them by law and to substitute the courts as the bodies making the decisions. It is intended to see that the relevant authorities use their powers in a proper manner.


Since the range of authorities, and the circumstances of the use of their power, are almost infinitely various, it is of course unwise to lay down rules for the application of the remedy which appear to be of universal validity in every type of case. But it is important to remember in every case that the purpose of the remedies is to ensure that the individual is given fair treatment by the authority to which he has been subjected and that it is no part of that purpose to substitute the opinion of the judiciary or of individual judges for that of the authority constituted by law to decide the matters in question. The function of the court is to see that lawful authority is not abused by unfair treatment and not to attempt itself the task entrusted to that authority by the law. There are passages in the judgment of the learned Master of the Rolls (and perhaps in the other judgments of the Court of Appeal) in the instant case and quoted by my noble and learned friend which might be read as giving the courts carte blanche to review the decision of the authority on the basis of what the courts themselves consider fair and reasonable on the merits. I am not sure whether the Master of the Rolls really intended his remarks to be construed in such a way as to permit the court to examine, as for instance in the present case, the reasoning of the subordinate authority with a view to substituting its own opinion. If so, I do not think this is a correct statement of principle. The purpose of judicial review is to ensure that the individual receives fair treatment, and not to ensure that the authority, after according fair treatment, reaches on a matter which it is authorised or enjoined by law to decide for itself a conclusion which is correct in the eyes of the court.


In the instant case I have no doubt that the respondent was not treated fairly by the appellant. In the first place by his own affidavit the appellant establishes that he asked himself the wrong question, and, once this has been established, for the purposes of judicial review, that by itself is surely enough to vitiate an impugned decision which is not otherwise self-evidently justified. The relevant Regulation enjoined the appellant to consider whether the respondent was "fitted physically or mentally to perform the duties of his office" or was likely to "become an efficient or well-conducted constable" before dispensing with his services. In his affidavit the appellant claimed that this Regulation "gives me an absolute discretion to dispense with a probationer's services". In my opinion the discretion, although wide, is not absolute. The Chief Constable should have directed his mind to the criteria laid down in the Regulation in accordance with the appropriate principles of natural justice. He did not do so, and I think it only too likely that it was precisely the belief that his discretion was absolute which led to the cavalier treatment to which, in the event, the respondent was subjected.


To this treatment I now come. Once it is established as was conceded here, that the office held by the appellant was of the third class enumerated by Lord Reid in Ridge v. Baldwin [1964] A.C. 40 at p.66, it becomes clear, quoting Lord Reid ( ibid), that there is "an unbroken line of authority to the effect that an officer cannot lawfully be dismissed without first telling him what is alleged against him and hearing his defence or explanation". I regard this rule as fundamental in cases of this kind when deprivation of office is in question. I agree with the appellant's affidavit that "a formal hearing" may well be unnecessary if by that is meant an oral hearing in every case held before the Chief Constable himself. But this does not dispense a Chief Constable from observing the rule laid down by Lord Reid. It may well be also that part or all of the enquiry on the facts may be delegated to a subordinate official, as was done here by the appellant to the Deputy Chief Constable, though, where this is done, the ultimate decision must not be delegated, and in my view, common prudence should dictate that the report by the delegated officer, in this case the Deputy Chief Constable, or at least its substance, should be shown to the officer the subject of review and an opportunity afforded him to comment on it before the final decision is taken by the Chief Constable himself. This was not done here. Moreover, where there has been delegation, the delegated enquiry itself must be conducted in accordance with Lord Reid's rule, and, where it is not, the ultimate decision, even if not delegated, will almost certainly be vitiated.


Apart from his self misdirection on the scope of his discretion, in the present case the appellant clearly admitted in his affidavit that he had taken into account matters concerning the domestic life of the respondent, some of which, if properly put to the respondent, might perhaps, after his explanation had been given and heard, have influenced the decision as to whether the respondent was likely to become an efficient or well-conducted constable. But some of the allegations were plainly erroneous and none, whether erroneous or otherwise, was ever put to the respondent at all in connexion with the relevant enquiry, whether at the delegated hearing or otherwise. Moreover, it was conceded by the appellant's counsel that, at the time of the extremely brief interview at which the decision was made by the appellant, the appellant had already made up his mind to dispense with the respondent's services on the basis of the report made to him by the Deputy Chief Constable, and the respondent was given no chance to say anything by way of denial of the facts alleged in the report or in mitigation of them.


As an example of the extreme danger of proceeding in this way, it must be observed, that, as one of the two clinching matters which seem to have influenced him, the appellant says in his affidavit:

"Further, it became known (sic) to Senior Officers that the applicant and his wife had lived a 'hippy' type lifestyle at Tyddyn Mynyddig Farm, Bangor".


This had never been put to the respondent at all, and had the appellant or his deputy to whom he delegated the enquiry taken the trouble to ask the respondent about it, he would have discovered at once that this allegedly clinching allegation was palpably untrue, and simply the result of a mistaken address. It was, in short, an utterly incorrect statement relied upon precisely owing to the failure of natural justice of which complaint is made.


There is room for greater controversy regarding the other matter supposedly clinching. There was a finding by the deputy who conducted the enquiry that the respondent had "deliberately flouted" the conditions of tenancy at his council house by keeping dogs in excess of the number permitted by the council and that this exhibited an attitude to authority improper in a member of the police force. This matter had indeed been put to the respondent in some form, but there is a conflict of evidence relating to the interview, of which only the respondent's version is on oath. Without seeking to resolve this conflict, I am of the opinion that natural justice required that it should have been put precisely to the respondent that exact compliance with the conditions of tenancy...

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