• In the case of Ridge v Baldwin [1964] AC 40, it was found that natural justice and the right to a fair hearing can extend from merely executive decisions made in a quasi-judicial environment.

Facts of the Case

  • Under section 191(4) of the Municipal Corporations Act 1882, D, Watch Committee could exercise their powers to dismiss a chief constable under negligence or unfitness.
  • C, a chief constable, had been arrested and was charged with conspiracy to impede the course of justice.
  • C had been acquitted but the sentencing judge made adverse commentary on C’s character and suitability.
  • D dismissed C by exercising their power described above, in the absence of providing C with the opportunity to present their case.
  • The Court of Appeal found that natural justice was inapplicable as the decision was an administrative one as opposed to a judicial or quasi-judicial decision.


  • Was there a breach of natural justice with the way in which the Watch Committee dismissed the chief constable.

Held by the House of Lords

  • The House of Lords allowed the appeal and held that the doctrine of natural justice was breached as C ought to have been informed of the charges made against him and should have been given the opportunity to be heard.

Lord Reid

Elaborate on the judgment

  • Lord Reid accepted that the definition of the doctrine of natural justice was ambiguous, but this could not be a reason for it to not exist in this case.
  • His Lordship found that there existed an “unbroken line of authority to the effect that an officer cannot lawfully be dismissed without first telling him what is alleged against him and hearing his defence of explanation.” [66]

Lord Hodson

  • Lord Hodson confirmed that even where an individual acts outside of the capacity of being judicial and acts within an executive or administrative role can be subject to the doctrine of natural justice.
  • At paragraph 132B, Lord Hodson outlines 3 key features of natural justice:
  • the right to be heard by an unbiased tribunal
  • the right to have notice of charges of misconduct
  • the right to be heard in answer to those charges
  • “The first does not arise in the case before your Lordships, but the two last most certainly do, and the proceedings before the Watch Committee, therefore, in my opinion, cannot be allowed to stand.” [132B]

Editor’s Notes

  • This case is a landmark case in the context of English judicial review by ensuring that regard is given to the contextual matters of a case in order to determine procedural fairness.