The Court may find that a decision is procedurally unfair and should be quashed if the decision-maker has a direct bias in making a particular decision, or even if it appears to have a bias. A decision-maker will have a ‘bias’ where it has an attitude which prevents it from making a decision objectively. The rule allows the Court to ensure that the decision-making process is fair and that decision-makers have an open mind.
A decision-maker will have direct bias where it has an interest in the decision being made. This could arise if the public authority has a financial interest in a particular decision (e.g. a local authority councillor would have an interest in a decision to award a grant to a company in which the councillor owns shares). Where the decision-maker’s interest is more than minor or remote, the decision-maker will be disqualified from making the decision and any decision that it has made will be quashed.
A decision-maker will have the appearance of bias where a fair minded and informed person, having considered the facts, would conclude that there was a real possibility that the decision-maker was biased.
Decision-makers are therefore required to ensure that they do not have a direct interest in the decision being made, and should also consider not acting as decision-maker if there is a real possibility that their impartiality in a particular case may be challenged.