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Principles of natural justice

Introduction

A number of entities within the MCH family have a quasi-judicial role and therefore the principles of natural justice clearly apply to them. The Broadcasting Standards Authority is an example of an entity with such a role. The principles may also apply to other boards in some situations as most of our boards are ‘public bodies’. Boards should be aware of and familiar with the principles.

Natural justice - a brief description

New Zealand has inherited many of the principles of the English legal system, some of which go back to Roman law which is where natural justice principles came from. They were regarded as principles that were 'natural’ or self-evident and originally related to two main maxims:

  • 'the right to be heard’ and
  • ‘no person may judge their own case’.

Today a public entity is required to be independent and impartial and the procedure is required to be fair.

How the principles may be relevant

The decisions of a body such as the Broadcasting Standards Authority are regularly reviewed by the courts and the principles applied. Other entities, particularly those involved in assessing tenders or applications for funding, also need to be aware that they may be subject to a judicial review.

A judicial review is when an interested party applies to a court (usually the High Court of New Zealand) for a decision of an entity (usually a public body) to be reviewed and set aside. Such a situation causes uncertainty for the entity, is often prolonged by appeals, and can cause significant negative public relations perceptions. Examples of situations are in the Appendix.

Appendix

Web links

  • The Right to Justice under s.27 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act is detailed at: tinyurl.com/6fmjns
  • An SSC update on entities appearing before select committees that has specific reference to Natural Justice is at: www.ssc.govt.nz/node/6352

 


Updated on 7th March 2017