ON 10 JUNE 2015, the High Court of Australia delivered Isbester v Knox City Council [2015] HCA 20 (10 June 2015).

‘Administrative law – Natural justice – Bias – Reasonable apprehension of bias – Incompatibility of roles – Where respondent made order under s 84P(e) of Domestic Animals Act 1994 (Vic) for destruction of appellant’s dog – Where there was panel hearing and deliberation prior to decision being made – Where member of panel had been involved in prosecuting related criminal charges – Whether fair-minded observer might reasonably apprehend that panel member might not bring impartial mind to decision – Whether interest of panel member might affect decision-making of others on panel.

Words and phrases – “conflict of interest”, “incompatibility of roles”.

Domestic Animals Act 1994 (Vic), s 84P(e).’

http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/HCA/2015/20.html

The appellant had been convicted by a Victorian Magistrate on a charge that her Staffordshire terror had attacked and seriously injured another person. The decision making committee of Knox City Council (“the Panel”) subsequently determined that the dog be destroyed.

The appellant unsuccessfully sought judicial review of the decision in the Supreme Court of Victoria and the Victorian Court of Appeal.

The appellant was successful on appeal to the High Court of Australia. The High Court held that the decision making process of the respondent’s Panel was contrary to natural justice because a fair minded observer might think that a person who took part in the prosecution of the dog owner might not bring an impartial mind to the decision to destroy the dog because of their role in the prosecution.

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