Recent Supreme Court Decision On The Right To Be Heard - Audi Alteram Partem

Caldwell v Mahon Tribunal and Others1

In a recent case the Supreme Court has accepted that tribunals of inquiry must have significant autonomy to organise their affairs. However, it found that in absolutely refusing to hear submissions of any kind, a tribunal had failed to comply with the basic requirement that where a decision may or will affect a party's interests, that party must, in some form, be heard.

The decision underlines the importance of the requirement of audi alteram partem or "hear the other side". It also demonstrates that adherence to principles of natural justice must be especially strict where the tribunal or administrative body is afforded a high level of discretion and power.

The case centred on a claim by the applicant, Mr Caldwell, that the tribunal in question had breached natural justice and denied him fair procedures by refusing to hear submissions on his behalf. Counsel for Mr Caldwell had twice sought to make submissions to the tribunal regarding its decision to commence and proceed with the investigation into the planning matters at issue. The tribunal argued that this decision was specifically within its discretion and countered that any requirement to hear all parties potentially...

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