Legal Principles and Key Points
- In the case of Cooper v Wandsworth Board of Works  14 CB (NS) 180 (CP);  143 ER 414, it was held that an individual is entitled to the right to be heard prior steps adverse to the individual’s property rights are taken.
Facts of the Case
- The district board is entitled, under section 76 of the Metropolis Local Management Act to alter or demolish a house where the builder refrains from providing notice of his intention to build seven days prior proceeding to lay or dig the foundation.
- C provided 5 days’ notice in advance and the Board of Works ordered the demolition of C’s house without having provided notice to C.
- C claimed that the Board were not empowered to make this decision without giving notice or giving C the opportunity of being heard.
- Ds argued that section 76 of the Metropolis Local Management Act provided them with discretion and asserted that so long as they acted ministerially as opposed to judicially, they were not expected to provide notice to C.
- Did C have the right to be heard before D could make a decision to demolish his property?
Held by the Court of Common Pleas
- The Court held that Ds were not entitled to demolish the building without having first giving C the chance to be heard.
- Erle CJ emphasised the little harm that would be brought by merely hearing C out first before proceeding with the demolition.
- “… I can conceive a great many advantages which might arise in the way of public order, in the way of doing substantial justice, and in the way of fulfilling the purposes of the statute, by the restriction which we put upon them, that they should hear the party before they inflict upon him such a heavy loss.” [417-418]
- His Lordship emphasises the importance of allowing C the opportunity to be heard before the demolition occurs which accounts for a universal principle of justice.
- “I apprehend that a tribunal which is by law invested with power to affect the property of one of Her Majesty’s subjects, is bound to give such subject an opportunity of being heard before it proceeds: and that that rule is of universal application, and founded upon the plainest principles of justice.”