Skip to main content

About this free course

Become an OU student

Download this course

Share this free course

Law and change: Scottish legal heroes
Law and change: Scottish legal heroes

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

6.3 Bias

One aspect of the rule of natural justice is that ‘no one shall be the judge in their own case’. If a decision-maker has a financial or other interest in the outcome of the case, they cannot be, or seen to be, impartial.

The rule deals with actual bias and with the appearance of bias; hence the saying ‘Justice must not only be done, but be seen to be done’. No one should be able to allege that a decision was a fix because the decision-maker was biased, whether or not there was any truth in that allegation. The rule must be observed strictly to maintain public confidence in the decision-making process. If, for example, the applicant for a grant is known personally to the decision-maker, or the decision-maker has dealt with the applicant before and decided against the applicant or expressed a view adverse to the applicant, it may be appropriate to refer the application to a different, or more senior, official.

Article 6 of the ECHR (fair determination of civil rights) also requires that a court or tribunal must be, and have the appearance of being, impartial and independent.