Legal Principles and Key Points
- In the case of Tsfayo v United Kingdom  ECHR 60860 00, it was found that a tribunal ought to determine the central issue in the case, which is independent to the parties in dispute, in order to meet the requirements of Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (which relates to the right to a fair trial).
Facts of the Case
- An Ethiopian asylum seeker (C), complained that the housing benefit review board lacked both independence and impartiality in contravention with Article 6 of the ECHR when they rejected C’s claim for backdated housing benefit.
- C sought for judicial review from the High Court but was refused this on the basis that at the time, the Convention was not incorporated into English Law. C then took her case to the European Court of Human Rights.
- The Government found that the housing benefit review board didn’t meet the requirements of Article 6. It was asserted that judicial review jurisdiction of courts was sufficient to correct any limitations in the decision of the board.
- Did the board meet the requirements as per Article 6?
Held by the European Court of Human Rights
- The European Court of Human Rights allowed the appeal and held that the housing benefit review board did not meet Article 6 requirements.
- The judge found that the board did not need to possess specialist expertise to determine whether there was a reasonable cause for the lateness of C’s application as this was a simple question of fact.
- “The HBRB was not merely lacking in independence from the executive, but was directly connected to one of the parties to the dispute, since it included five councillors from the local authority that would be required to pay the benefit if awarded. The safeguards built into the HBRB procedure were not adequate to overcome this fundamental lack of objective impartiality.” 
- “Whilst the High Court, as a second-tier body, had the power to quash the decision if it considered that no there was no evidence to support the HBRB’s factual findings, or that its findings were plainly untenable, or that the HBRB had misunderstood or been ignorant of an established and relevant fact, it did not have jurisdiction to rehear the evidence or substitute its own views as to the applicant’s credibility.” 
- Although specialist expertise was not required, the board lacked sufficient safeguards in order to meet their conclusion.