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Sengupta v Holmes and others

7 August 2002
The issues

Permission to Appeal – judicial bias.

The facts

The Appellant sought leave to Appeal to the Court of Appeal. His Application was refused on paper by Lord Justice Laws. The Application was renewed before two Lord Justices, who granted permission. When the Appeal itself was listed, the Tribunal included Lord Justice Laws. The Claimant argued that the Lord Justice should recuse himself on grounds of apparent bias. The Lord Chancellor instructed Counsel to represent him as an intervener.

The decision

1. Nothing in the case suggested there was any particular reason why Lord Justice Laws should recuse himself. The test for bias had already been approved by the House of Lords in McGill -v- Porter. Here, all the Judge had done was to conclude that the result in the Court below was correct. It had been in his mind that his view might be reconsidered. There was no reasonable basis for supposing he would not bring an open mind to bear on the substantive Appeal.

Comments

Was it also a matter of clearing the air on principle that the Lead Judgment in this case with which the other two Lord Justices concurred, should have been given by Lord Justice Laws?

Whilst one recognises the importance of the Judiciary being protected from random accusations of bias, one also wonders how a lay party would view the decision and its circumstances.

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