The laws of natural justice have underpinned the English legal system since Roman times.
They protect against arbitrary exercise of power by ensuring fair play.
The principles of natural justice form two basic legal safeguards that govern all decisions by judges or government officials when they take quasi-judicial or judicial decisions.
One is nemo judex in parte sua (no person may judge their own case) and the other is audi alteram partem (the right to be heard).
1 Audi alteram partem (Latin for, hear the other side): no accused, or a person directly affected by a decision, shall be condemned unless given full chance to prepare and submit his or her case and rebuttal to the opposing party’s arguments.
2 Nemo judex in causa sua (Latin for, no man a judge in his own case): no decision is valid if it was influenced by any financial consideration or other interest or bias of the decision maker.
These principles apply to decisions of all governmental agencies and tribunals, and judgements of all courts, which may be declared to be of having no effect (ultra vires) if found in contravention of natural justice.
A council cannot campaign against something (the ‘council-led community campaign’ against the principle of an eco-town) and at the same time consider it with an open mind (the Eco Town Select Committee) – Nemo judex in causa sua. Bias of the decision maker!
Arun now seeks to use the findings of the Eco Town Select Committee as its justification against a new settlement on brownfield land and to justify development of large swathes of greenfield land across the district.
Arun’s councillors should have upheld the laws of natural justice – instead they have jeopardised the soundness of their Local Plan.
I hope the residents most affected by this – in Angmering, Eastergate, Aldingbourne and Barnham (plus any others with an appetite for fairness) will include this point in their response to the current public consultation – in order to receive an independent opinion from the planning inspectorate when it is considered in a quasi judicial rather than party political context.
Would Arun like to exercise its right to audi alteram partem to explain its councillors’ failure to uphold nemo judex in causa sua?
Barons Close, Westergate, Chichester