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R v Secretary of State for Trade & Industry & Ors

Summary

There was nothing procedurally unfair about the decision of inspectors appointed by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to complete and deliver their report into the appellant's conduct in relation to three companies without allowing him an opportunity to answer in writing the provisional criticisms made of him. In any event, the appellant had failed to show that the inspectors might have altered their conclusions

Facts

Appeal from the decision of Stanley Burnton J dismissing an application for judicial review of decisions by the second and third respondent inspectors, who had been appointed by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry under s.442 Companies Act 1985 and s.177 Financial Services Act 1986, to complete and deliver their report into conduct by the appellant ('C') notwithstanding that they had failed to provide him with an opportunity to respond in writing to the provisional conclusions of which they had notified him. The inspectors were appointed in 1992 to investigate C's conduct in relation to three companies. In May 1995 the inspectors notified C of their provisional conclusions, which involved a number of serious criticisms, including an allegation of deliberate dishonesty. C subsequently attended an interview with the inspectors at which he purported to answer the criticisms. C contended that he had subsequently been assured that the report would not be finalised or delivered to the secretary of state until he had provided a written response to it. After a period of five years had elapsed without any such response being provided, the inspectors completed the report and delivered it to the secretary of state. The report repeated the provisional conclusions that C had been told of. By his application for judicial review C contended that the inspectors were in breach of their duty to act fairly towards him.

Held

(1) There was not the slightest evidence that anything that C would have wished to put in his written response might have caused the inspectors to change their minds in any material respect. Since C could not surmount this threshold hurdle, his application for judicial review was bound to fail. (2) In any event, there had been no procedural unfairness. C had not been promised an opportunity to respond in writing, and the duty of fairness did not require that he should be provided with one after the passage of so long a period of time in which he could have provided a written response had he genuinely wished to do so.

Court of Appeal
Schiemann LJ, Chadwick LJ, Sir Christopher Staughton
Judgment date
18 April 2002
References

LTL 18/4/2002 : (2003) BCC 128

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