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Table of Contents

  1. Acknowledgments
  2. Chapter one: Defining the constitution
  3. Chapter two: Parliamentary sovereignty
  4. Chapter three: The rule of law and the separation of powers
  5. Chapter four: The royal prerogative
  6. Chapter five: The House of Commons
  7. Chapter six: The House of Lords
  8. Chapter seven: The electoral system
  9. Chapter eight: Parliamentary privilege
  10. Chapter nine: Constitutional conventions
  11. Chapter ten: Local government
  12. Chapter eleven: Parliamentary sovereignty within the European Union
  13. Chapter twelve: The governance of Scotland and Wales
  14. Chapter thirteen: Substantive grounds of judicial review 1: illegality, irrationality and proportionality
  15. Chapter fourteen: Procedural grounds of judicial review
    1. Cooper v Wandsworth Board of Works [1863] 143 ER 414
    2. R v Metropolitan Police Commissioner, ex parte Parker [1953] 2 All ER 717
    3. Ridge v Baldwin and others [1963] 2 All ER 66
    4. Re K (H) (an infant) [1967] 1 All ER 226
    5. Schmidt and Another v Secretary of State For Home Affairs [1969] 1 All ER 904
    6. McInnes v Onslow Fane and another [1978] 3 All ER 211
    7. R v Hull Prison Board of Visitors, ex parte St Germain and others (No 2) [1979] 3 All ER 545
    8. Attorney-General of Hong Kong v Ng Yuen Shiu (Privy Council) [1983] 2 W.L.R. 735; [1983] 2 A.C. 629
    9. R v Secretary of State for the Home Department, ex parte Khan [1985] 1 All ER 40
    10. R v North East Devon Health Authority, ex parte Coughlan [2000] 3 All ER 850
    11. Regina v Secretary of State for Education and Employment, ex parte Begbie (CA) [2000] 1 W.L.R. 1115
    12. R (on the application of Bibi) v London Borough of Newham; [2001] EWCA Civ 607; [2002] 1 WLR 237 (CA).
    13. R v East Sussex County Council, ex p Reprotech (Pebsham) Ltd (HL) [2002] UKHL 8; 2002] 4 All ER 58.
    14. Metropolitan Properties Co (F G C) Ltd v Lannon and Others [1968] 3 All ER 304
    15. R v Gough [1993] 2 All ER 724
    16. R v Bow Street Metropolitan Stipendiary Magistrate and others, ex parte Pinochet Ugarte (No 2) [1999] 1 All ER 577
    17. Taylor v Lawrence [2003] QB 528
  16. Chapter fifteen: Challenging governmental decisions: the process
  17. Chapter sixteen: Locus standi
  18. Chapter seventeen: Human rights I: Traditional perspectives
  19. Chapter eighteen: Human rights II: Emergent principles
  20. Chapter nineteen: Human rights III: New substantive grounds of review
  21. Chapter twenty: Human rights IV: The Human Rights Act 1998
  22. Chapter twenty-one: Human rights V: The impact of The Human Rights Act 1998
  23. Chapter twenty-two: Human rights VI: Governmental powers of arrest and detention
  24. Chapter twenty-three: Leaving the European Union

R v Bow Street Metropolitan Stipendiary Magistrate and others, ex parte Pinochet Ugarte (No 2) [1999] 1 All ER 577

LORD BROWNE-WILKINSON:....This petition has been brought by Senator Pinochet to set aside an order made by your Lordships on 25 November 1998. It is said that the links between one of the members of the Appellate Committee who heard the appeal, Lord Hoffmann, and Amnesty International (AI) were such as to give the appearance that he might have been biased against Senator Pinochet. On 17 December 1998 your Lordships set aside the order of 25 November 1998 for reasons to be given later. These are the reasons that led me to that conclusion.


Senator Pinochet was the head of state of Chile from 11 September 1973 until 11 March 1990. It is alleged that during that period there took place in Chile various crimes against humanity (torture, hostage taking and murder) for which he was knowingly responsible.

In October 1998 Senator Pinochet was in this country receiving medical treatment. In October and November 1998 the judicial authorities in Spain issued international warrants for his arrest to enable his extradition to Spain to face trial for those alleged offences. The Spanish Supreme Court has held that the courts of Spain have jurisdiction to try him. Pursuant to those international warrants, on 16 and 23 October 1998 metropolitan stipendiary magistrates issued two provisional warrants for his arrest under s 8(1)(b) of the Extradition Act 1989. Senator Pinochet was arrested. He immediately applied to the Queen's Bench Divisional Court to quash the warrants. The warrant of 16 October was quashed and nothing further turns on that warrant. The second warrant of 23 October 1998 was quashed by an order of the Divisional Court of the Queen's Bench Division (Lord Bingham of Cornhill CJ, Collins and Richards JJ). However, the quashing of the second warrant was stayed to enable an appeal to be taken to your Lordships' House on the question certified by the Divisional Court as to 'the proper interpretation and scope of the immunity enjoyed by a former head of state from arrest and extradition proceedings in the United Kingdom in respect of acts committed while he was head of state'.....


The Divisional Court having unanimously quashed the provisional warrant of 23 October on the ground that Senator Pinochet was entitled to immunity, he was thereupon free to return to Chile subject only to the stay to permit the appeal to your Lordships' House. The matter proceeded to your Lordships' House with great speed. It was heard on 4, 5 and 9 to 12 November 1998 by a committee consisting of Lord Slynn of Hadley, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead, Lord Steyn and Lord Hoffmann. However, before the main hearing of the appeal, there was an interlocutory decision of the greatest importance for the purposes of the present application. Amnesty International (AI), two other human rights bodies and three individuals petitioned for leave to intervene in the appeal. Such leave was granted by a committee consisting of Lord Slynn, Lord Nicholls and Lord Steyn subject to any protest being made by other parties at the start of the main hearing. No such protest having been made AI accordingly became an intervener in the appeal. At the hearing of the appeal AI not only put in written submissions but was also represented by counsel....

The hearing of this case, both before the Divisional Court and in your Lordships' House, produced an unprecedented degree of public interest not only in this country but worldwide. The case raises fundamental issues of public international law and their interaction with the domestic law of this country. The conduct of Senator Pinochet and his regime have been highly contentious and emotive matters...


Judgment in your Lordships' House was given on 25 November 1998. The appeal was allowed by a majority of three to two and your Lordships' House restored the second warrant of 23 October 1998. ...


It appears that neither Senator Pinochet nor (save to a very limited extent) his legal advisers were aware of any connection between Lord Hoffmann and AI until after the judgment was given on 25 November. Two members of the legal team recalled that they had heard rumours that Lord Hoffmann's wife was connected with AI in some way. During the Newsnight programme on television on 25 November, an allegation to that effect was made by a speaker in Chile. On that limited information the representations made on Senator Pinochet's behalf to the Home Secretary on 30 November drew attention to Lady Hoffmann's position and contained a detailed consideration of the relevant law of bias. It then read:

It is submitted therefore that the Secretary of State should not have any regard to the decision of Lord Hoffmann. The authorities make it plain that this is the appropriate approach to a decision that is affected by bias. Since the bias was in the House of Lords, the Secretary of State represents the senator's only domestic protection. Absent domestic protection the senator will have to invoke the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights.....

On 7 December a man anonymously telephoned Senator Pinochet's solicitors alleging that Lord Hoffmann was a director of the Amnesty International Charitable Trust. That allegation was repeated in a newspaper report on 8 December. Senator Pinochet's solicitors informed the Home Secretary of these allegations. On 8 December they received a letter from the solicitors acting for AI dated 7 December, which reads, so far as relevant, as follows:

On further consideration, our client, Amnesty International have instructed us that after contacting Lord Hoffmann over the weekend both he and they believe that the following information about his connection with Amnesty International's charitable work should be provided to you. Lord Hoffmann is a Director and Chairperson of Amnesty International Charity Limited (AICL), a registered charity incorporated on 7 April 1986 to undertake those aspects of the work of Amnesty International Limited (AIL) which are charitable under UK law. AICL files reports with Companies' House and the Charity Commissioners as required by UK law. AICL funds a proportion of the charitable activities undertaken independently by AIL. AIL's board is composed of Amnesty International's Secretary General and two Deputy Secretaries General. Since 1990 Lord Hoffmann and Peter Duffy Q.C. have been the two Directors of AICL. They are neither employed nor remunerated by either AICL or AIL. They have not been consulted and have not had any other role in Amnesty International's interventions in the case of Pinochet. Lord Hoffmann is not a member of Amnesty International. In addition, in 1997 Lord Hoffmann helped in the organisation of a fund raising appeal for a new building for Amnesty International UK....

There are complicated arrangements between the international headquarters of AI, AICL and AIL as to the discharge of their respective functions. From the reports of the directors and the notes to the annual accounts, it appears that, although the system has changed slightly from time to time, the current system is as follows. The international headquarters of AI are in London and the premises are, at least in part, shared with AICL and AIL. The conduct of AI's international headquarters is (subject to the direction of the international executive committee) in the hands of AIL. AICL commissions AIL to undertake charitable activities of the kind which fall within the objects of AI. The directors of AICL then resolve to expend the sums that they have received from AI sections or elsewhere in funding such charitable work as AIL performs. AIL then reports retrospectively to AICL as to the moneys expended and AICL votes sums to AIL for such part of AIL's work as can properly be regarded as charitable. It was confirmed in the course of argument that certain work done by AIL would therefore be treated as in part done by AIL on its own behalf and in part on behalf of AICL....

The directors of AICL do not receive any remuneration. Nor do they take any part in the policy-making activities of AI. Lord Hoffmann is not a member of AI or of any other body connected with AI. In addition to the AI related bodies that I have mentioned, there are other organisations which are not directly relevant to the present case.....


Miss Montgomery QC in her very persuasive submissions on behalf of Senator Pinochet contended (1) that, although there was no exact precedent, your Lordships' House must have jurisdiction to set aside its own orders where they have been improperly made, since there is no other court which could correct such impropriety; (2) that (applying the test in R v Gough [1993] 2 All ER 724, [1993] AC 646) the links between Lord Hoffmann and AI were such that there was a real danger that Lord Hoffmann was biased in favour of AI or alternatively (applying the test in Webb v R (1994) 181 CLR 41) that such links give rise to a reasonable apprehension or suspicion on the part of a fair minded and informed member of the public that Lord Hoffmann might have been so biased.

On the other side, Mr Alun Jones accepted that your Lordships had power to revoke an earlier order of this House but contended that there was no case for such revocation here. The applicable test of bias, he submitted, was that recently laid down by your Lordships in R v Gough and it was impossible to say that there was a real danger that Lord Hoffmann had been biased against Senator Pinochet...


2) Apparent bias

As I have said, Senator Pinochet does not allege that Lord Hoffmann was in fact biased. The contention is that there was a real danger or reasonable apprehension or suspicion that Lord Hoffmann might have been biased, that is to say it is alleged that there is an appearance of bias not actual bias.

The fundamental principle is that a man may not be a judge in his own cause. This principle, as developed by the courts, has two very similar but not identical implications. First it may be applied literally: if a judge is in fact a party to the litigation or has a financial or proprietary interest in its outcome then he is indeed sitting as a judge in his own cause. In that case, the mere fact that he is a party to the action or has a financial or proprietary interest in its outcome is sufficient to cause his automatic disqualification. The second application of the principle is where a judge is not a party to the suit and does not have a financial interest in its outcome, but in some other way his conduct or behaviour may give rise to a suspicion that he is not impartial, for example because of his friendship with a party. This second type of case is not strictly speaking an application of the principle that a man must not be judge in his own cause, since the judge will not normally be himself benefiting, but providing a benefit for another by failing to be impartial.

In my judgment, this case falls within the first category of case, viz where the judge is disqualified because he is a judge in his own cause. In such a case, once it is shown that the judge is himself a party to the cause, or has a relevant interest in its subject matter, he is disqualified without any investigation into whether there was a likelihood or suspicion of bias. The mere fact of his interest is sufficient to disqualify him unless he has made sufficient disclosure: see Shetreet Judges on Trial (1976) p 303 and De Smith, Woolf and Jowell Judicial Review of Administrative Action (5th edn, 1995) p 525. I will call this 'automatic disqualification'.

In Dimes v Proprietors of Grand Junction Canal (1852) 3 HL Cas 759, 10 ER 301 the then Lord Chancellor, Lord Cottenham, owned a substantial shareholding in the defendant canal which was an incorporated body. In the action Lord Cottenham LC sat on appeal from Shadwell V-C, whose judgment in favour of the company he affirmed. There was an appeal to your Lordships' House on the grounds that Lord Cottenham LC was disqualified. Their Lordships consulted the judges, who advised that Lord Cottenham LC was disqualified from sitting as a judge in the cause because he had an interest in the suit.... This advice was unanimously accepted by their Lordships. There was no inquiry by the court as to whether a reasonable man would consider Lord Cottenham LC to be biased and no inquiry as to the circumstances which led to Lord Cottenham LC sitting. Lord Campbell said (3 HL Cas 759 at 793, 10 ER 301 at 315):

"No one can suppose that Lord Cottenham could be, in the remotest degree, influenced by the interest he had in this concern; but, my Lords, it is of the last importance that the maxim that no man is to be a judge in his own cause should be held sacred. And that is not to be confined to a cause in which he is a party, but applies to a cause in which he has an interest". (My emphasis.)

On occasion, this proposition is elided so as to omit all references to the disqualification of a judge who is a party to the suit: see eg R v Rand (1866) LR 1 QB 230 and R v Gough [1993] 2 All ER 724 at 730, [1993] AC 646 at 661. This does not mean that a judge who is a party to a suit is not disqualified just because the suit does not involve a financial interest. The authorities cited in Dimes case show how the principle developed. The starting-point was the case in which a judge was indeed purporting to decide a case in which he was a party. This was held to be absolutely prohibited. That absolute prohibition was then extended to cases where, although not nominally a party, the judge had an interest in the outcome.

The importance of this point in the present case is this. Neither AI, nor AICL, have any financial interest in the outcome of this litigation. We are here confronted, as was Lord Hoffmann, with a novel situation where the outcome of the litigation did not lead to financial benefit to anyone. The interest of AI in the litigation was not financial; it was its interest in achieving the trial and possible conviction of Senator Pinochet for crimes against humanity.

By seeking to intervene in this appeal and being allowed so to intervene, in practice AI became a party to the appeal. Therefore if, in the circumstances, it is right to treat Lord Hoffmann as being the alter ego of AI and therefore a judge in his own cause, then he must have been automatically disqualified on the grounds that he was a party to the appeal. Alternatively, even if it be not right to say that Lord Hoffmann was a party to the appeal as such, the question then arises whether, in non-financial litigation, anything other than a financial or proprietary interest in the outcome is sufficient automatically to disqualify a man from sitting as judge in the cause.

Are the facts such as to require Lord Hoffmann to be treated as being himself a party to this appeal? The facts are striking and unusual. One of the parties to the appeal is an unincorporated association, AI. One of the constituent parts of that unincorporated association is AICL. AICL was established, for tax purposes, to carry out part of the functions of AI(those parts which were charitable(which had previously been carried on either by AI itself or by AIL. Lord Hoffmann is a director and chairman of AICL, which is wholly controlled by AI, since its members (who ultimately control it) are all the members of the international executive committee of AI. A large part of the work of AI is, as a matter of strict law, carried on by AICL which instructs AIL to do the work on its behalf. In reality, AI, AICL and AIL are a close-knit group carrying on the work of AI.

However, close as these links are, I do not think it would be right to identify Lord Hoffmann personally as being a party to the appeal....

Then is this a case in which it can be said that Lord Hoffmann had an 'interest' which must lead to his automatic disqualification? Hitherto only pecuniary and proprietary interests have led to automatic disqualification. But, as I have indicated, this litigation is most unusual. It is not civil litigation but criminal litigation. Most unusually, by allowing AI to intervene, there is a party to a criminal cause or matter who is neither prosecutor nor accused. That party, AI, shares with the government of Spain and the CPS, not a financial interest but an interest to establish that there is no immunity for ex-heads of state in relation to crimes against humanity. The interest of these parties is to procure Senator Pinochet's extradition and trial ( a non-pecuniary interest....

That being the case, the question is whether in the very unusual circumstances of this case a non-pecuniary interest to achieve a particular result is sufficient to give rise to automatic disqualification and, if so, whether the fact that AICL had such an interest necessarily leads to the conclusion that Lord Hoffmann, as a director of AICL, was automatically disqualified from sitting on the appeal? My Lords, in my judgment, although the cases have all dealt with automatic disqualification on the grounds of pecuniary interest, there is no good reason in principle for so limiting automatic disqualification. The rationale of the whole rule is that a man cannot be a judge in his own cause. In civil litigation the matters in issue will normally have an economic impact; therefore a judge is automatically disqualified if he stands to make a financial gain as a consequence of his own decision of the case. But if, as in the present case, the matter at issue does not relate to money or economic advantage but is concerned with the promotion of the cause, the rationale disqualifying a judge applies just as much if the judge's decision will lead to the promotion of a cause in which the judge is involved together with one of the parties. Thus in my opinion if Lord Hoffmann had been a member of AI he would have been automatically disqualified because of his non-pecuniary interest in establishing that Senator Pinochet was not entitled to immunity. Indeed, so much I understood to have been conceded by Mr Duffy.

Can it make any difference that, instead of being a direct member of AI, Lord Hoffmann is a director of AICL, that is of a company which is wholly controlled by AI and is carrying on much of its work? Surely not. The substance of the matter is that AI, AIL and AICL are all various parts of an entity or movement working in different fields towards the same goals. If the absolute impartiality of the judiciary is to be maintained, there must be a rule which automatically disqualifies a judge who is involved, whether personally or as a director of a company, in promoting the same causes in the same organisation as is a party to the suit. There is no room for fine distinctions if Lord Hewart CJ's famous dictum is to be observed: "it is (of fundamental importance that justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done" (see R v Sussex Justices, ex p McCarthy [1923] All ER Rep 233 at 234).

Since, in my judgment, the relationship between AI, AICL and Lord Hoffmann leads to the automatic disqualification of Lord Hoffmann to sit on the hearing of the appeal, it is unnecessary to consider the other factors which were relied on by Miss Montgomery....I do, however, wish to make it clear (if I have not already done so) that my decision is not that Lord Hoffmann has been guilty of bias of any kind.....

For the same reason, it is unnecessary to determine whether the test of apparent bias laid down in R v Gough ('Is there in the view of the court a real danger that the judge was biased?') needs to be reviewed in the light of subsequent decisions....

It is important not to overstate what is being decided. It was suggested in argument that a decision setting aside the order of 25 November 1998 would lead to a position where judges would be unable to sit on cases involving charities in whose work they are involved. It is suggested that, because of such involvement, a judge would be disqualified. That is not correct. The facts of this present case are exceptional. The critical elements are (1) that AI was a party to the appeal; (2) that AI was joined in order to argue for a particular result; (3) the judge was a director of a charity closely allied to AI and sharing, in this respect, AI's objects. Only in cases where a judge is taking an active role as trustee or director of a charity which is closely allied to and acting with a party to the litigation should a judge normally be concerned either to recuse himself or disclose the position to the parties. However, there may well be other exceptional cases in which the judge would be well advised to disclose a possible interest....


It was for these reasons... that I reluctantly felt bound to set aside the order of 25 November 1998.