Ridge v Baldwin

JurisdictionUK Non-devolved
Judgment Date1963
CourtHouse of Lords

Police - Dismissal of chief constable - Power of watch committee to dismiss for misconduct - Exercise of power - Requirements of natural justice - Appeal to Home Secretary - Municipal Corporations Act, 1882 (45 & 46 Vict. c. 50), s. 191 (4) - Police Act, 1919 (9 & 10 Geo. 5, c. 46), s. 4 (1) - Police (Appeals) Act, 1927 (17 & 18 Geo. 5, c. 19), s. 1 (1) - Police Discipline Regulations, 1952 (S.I. 1952 No. 1705) - Police (Discipline) (Deputy Chief Constables, Assistant Chief Constables and Chief Constables) Regulations, 1952 (S.I. 1952 No. 1706) - Police (Discipline) (Deputy Chief Constables, Assistant Chief Constables and Chief Constables) Regulations, 1954 (S.I. 1954 No. 1688). - Natural Justice - Opportunity to meet charge - Dismissal of public servant - Chief constable dismissed by watch committee after acquittal on criminal charge - Censure of conduct at trial - No hearing - Whether dismissal an administrative act. - Crown - Minister, determination by - Whether subject to review by courts - Minister's decision “shall be final” - Dismissal of chief constable by watch committee - Dismissal of appeal by Minister - Watch committee's decision alleged void - Police (Appeals) Act, 1927, s. 2 (3). - Void or Voidable - Decision contrary to natural justice - Appeal to Minister - Whether whole proceedings void. - Election or Option - Appeal - Election to appeal to Minister - Whether jurisdiction of court ousted.

By section 191 of the Municipal Corporations Act, 1882:

“(1) The watch committee shall from time to time appoint a sufficient number of fit men to be borough constables … (4) The watch committee … may at any time suspend, and … dismiss, any borough constable whom they think negligent in the discharge of his duty, or otherwise unfit for the same.”

In 1956 the appellant was appointed chief constable of a borough police force, the appointment being subject to the Police Acts and regulations. On October 25, 1957, he was arrested and charged, together with other persons, with conspiracy to obstruct the course of justice. On October 28, 1957, he was suspended from duty by the borough watch committee. On February 28, 1958, he was acquitted by the jury on the criminal charges against him, but Donovan J. in passing sentence on two police officers who were convicted, said that the facts admitted in the course of the trial

“establish that neither of you had that professional and moral leadership which both of you should have had and were entitled to expect from the chief constable.”

On March 6, 1958, on a charge alleging corruption against the appellant, on which no evidence was offered, the judge referred to the borough's police force and remarked on its need for a leader “who will be a new influence and who will set a different example from that which has lately obtained.” After his acquittal the appellant applied to be reinstated, but on March 7, 1958, the watch committee at a meeting decided that he had been negligent in the discharge of his duties as chief constable and, in purported exercise of the powers conferred on them by section 191 (4) of the Act of 1882, dismissed him from that office. No specific charge was formulated against him, either at that meeting or at another on March 18, when the appellant's solicitor addressed the committee, but the watch committee, in arriving at their decision, considered (inter alia) his own statements in evidence and the observations made by Donovan J. on February 28 and March 6. On the appellant's appeal to the Home Secretary, the decision given was

“that there was sufficient material on which the watch committee could properly exercise their power of dismissal under section 191 (4).”

The appellant then brought an action against members of the watch committee for a declaration that his dismissal was illegal, ultra vires and void, and payment of salary from March 7, 1958, or, alternatively, payment of pension from that date and damages:—

Held (Lord Evershed dissenting), that the decision of the respondents to dismiss the appellant was null and void; and that, accordingly, notwithstanding that the decision of the Home Secretary was “final and binding on the parties” by section 2 (3) of the Police Appeals Act, 1927, that decision could not give validity to the decision of the respondents (post, pp. 954, 993, 1001, 1004).

The decision of the respondents was a nullity (post, pp. 953, 985, 993, 1001, 1004), since:

Per Lord Reid, Lord Morris and Lord Hodson. As the appellant was not the servant of the respondents and they could dismiss him only on grounds stated in section 191 (4) of the Act of 1882, and they dismissed him on the ground of neglect of duty, they were bound to observe the principles of natural justice (post pp. 941, 952, 989, 992, 994, 998) by informing the appellant of the charges made against him and giving him an opportunity of being heard, and that they had not done.

Per Lord Reid, Lord Morris, Lord Hodson and Lord Devlin. The requirements of the discipline regulations code made under the Police Act, 1919, although they did not operate in cases of dismissal under the Act of 1882 for inefficiency or inadequacy, did apply to a case such as this where a charge of misconduct was involved and, accordingly, on this ground also the purported dismissal was a nullity. The expression “report or allegation” which under the discipline regulations must precede the investigation of charges under those regulations should be given a wide meaning (post, pp. 952, 979, 982, 999, 1002, 1003).

Per Lord Devlin. I cannot regard the power of dismissal under article 11 (1) of the Police (Discipline) (Deputy Chief Constables, Assistant Chief Constables and Chief Constables) Regulations, 1952, as something distinct from the power of dismissal under section 191 (4), and I think that the effect of article 11 (1) is to make the power of dismissal conditional on the receipt of the report submitted to the police authority by the tribunal appointed under the regulations (post, p. 1004).

Cooper v. Wilson [1937] 2 K.B. 309; 53 T.L.R. 623; [1937] 2 All E.R. 726, C.A. and Hogg v. Scott [1947] K.B. 759; 63 T.L.R. 320; [1947] 1 All E.R. 788 considered.

Nakkuda Ali v. M. F. de S. Jayaratne [1951] A.C. 66; [1951] T.L.R. (Pt. 2) 214, P.C. distinguished.

De Verteuil v. Knaggs [1918] A.C. 557; 34 T.L.R. 323, P.C. and Annamunthodo v. Oilfield Workers' Trade Union [1961] A.C. 945; [1961] 3 W.L.R. 650; [1961] 3 All E.R. 621, P.C. applied.

Decision of the Court of Appeal [1963] 1 Q.B. 539; [1962] 2 W.L.R. 716; [1962] 1 All E.R. 834, C.A. reversed.

APPEAL from the Court of Appeal (Holroyd Pearce, Harman and Davies L.JJ.).

This was an appeal by Charles Feild William Ridge (who was the plaintiff in the action) by leave of the House of Lords (Lord Reid, Lord Hodson and Lord Devlin) given on March 6, 1962, from a decision of the Court of Appeal dated January 30, 1962, whereby it affirmed the judgment of Streatfeild J., who had dismissed the appellant's claim against the respondents (the defendants in the action), George Bernard Baldwin, Charles Herbert Tyson, John Edward Hay, Ernest Marsh, Dorothy Elsie Stringer, Timothy Norman Barber, Bernard Arthur Crabbe. Mrs. May Hay, Alfred Arthur Illman, Leonard Knowles, Leonard Varville Ledden, Thomas James Ledden Taylor and Sidney Armstrong Wheeler, who were members of the watch committee and therefore the police authority of the County Borough of Brighton. The appellant's claim arose out of his purported dismissal from the office of chief constable of Brighton effected by the respondents on March 7, 1958.

The facts are set out in their Lordships' opinions.

D. Ackner Q.C. and J. MacManus for the appellant.

Neville Faulks Q.C. and P. Harmsworth for the respondents.

The following authorities, besides those referred to in their Lordships' opinions, were cited in argument: Fisher v. Oldham CorporationF1; Rex v. Hendon Rural District Council, Ex parte ChorleyF2; Reg. v. Manchester Legal Aid CommitteeF3; General Medical Council v. SpackmanF4; Taylor v. National Assistance BoardF5; Pyx Granite Co. Ltd. v. Ministry of Housing and Local GovernmentF6; Reg. v. Medical Appeal Tribunal, Ex parte GilmoreF7; Toronto Railway Co. v. Toronto CorporationF8; Bennett & White (Calgary) Ltd. v. Municipal District of Sugar City No. 5F9; New Zealand Dairy Board v. Okitu Co-operative Dairy Co. Ltd.F10; Vine v. National Dock Labour BoardF11 Rex v. Legislative Committee of the Church Assembly, Ex parte HaynesF12; Tomlinson v. London, Midland & Scottish Railway Co.F13; H. Tolputt & Co. Ltd. v. MoleF14; Barraclough v. BrownF15; Barnard v. National Dock Labour BoardF16; Kilduff v. WilsonF17; Ex parte TeatherF18; Brown v. Dagenham Urban District CouncilF19; McManus v. BowesF20; Errington v. Minister of HealthF21; B. Johnson & Co. (Builders) Ltd. v. Minister of HealthF22; Stafford v. Minister of HealthF23; Reg. v. NgwevalaF24; Franklin v. Minister of Town and Country PlanningF25; Attorney-General v. HooperF26; Rex v. North, Ex parte OakeyF27; Hayman v. Governors of Rugby SchoolF28; Colonial Bank of Australasia v. WillanF29; Reg. v. GillyardF30; Ex parte BradlaughF31; Maritime Electric Co. Ltd. v. General Dairies Ltd.F32; In re a Bankruptcy Notice (No. 62 of 1924)F33; Ceylon University v. FernandoF34; Thomson v. Lord ClanmorrisF35; and Rex v. Paddington & St. Marylebone Rent Tribunal, Ex parte Bell, London & Provincial Properties.F36

Their Lordships took time for consideration.

March 14, 1963. LORD REID. My Lords, the appellant, Mr. Ridge, became chief constable of the County Borough of Brighton in 1956, after serving in the Brighton Police Force for some 33 years. At a meeting of the watch committee, the police authority, on March 7, 1958, it was resolved that he should be...

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