Reference:  ISLR, SLR-187
Court: Queen's Bench Division
Judge: Cooke J
Date of judgment: 26 Oct 2001
Summary: Public Law - Administrative law - Human Rights - Right to a Fair Trial - Article 6 - Disciplinary proceedings - Sports Law -Contractual obligations - Disciplinary penalties - Whether disproportionate
Instructing Solicitors: Reynolds Porter Chamberlain for the Defendant
The Claimant sought to challenge a decision by the Kennel Club following a disciplinary hearing to ban her from the Club for 5 years. This affected her livelihood as a breeder as it prevented her attending or taking part in Club events, becoming a member or officer of affiliated societies, managing Club events, judging events, and being registered as a Club approved breeder. The ban followed the Claimant’s conviction by magistrates for sixteen offences under s.1(1)(b) Protection of Animals Act 1911. The offences arose from the Claimant transporting ten dogs in a van with a translucent roof. All the dogs died from overheating during the journey. The magistrates ordered the Claimant to pay £2,000 costs but gave her an absolute discharge. They found that she had failed to exercise reasonable foresight in choosing the van but they were confident that nothing like this incident would happen again.
Whether the disiciplinary procedure adopted by the Club had been unfair in that the ban had been imposed without an oral hearing, and without giving her the chance to appeal. The penalty had the effect of ending her career in the dog world and depriving her of her livelihood and there was an issue as to whether the penalty was disproprtionate to the offence and whether the Club had an implied contractual obligation to come to the correct decision on penalty. The convictions imposed by the magistrates became spent on 19 July 1999, therefore there was a further argument on whether the Club’s ban could lawfully be imposed beyond that date (the Claimant relied on s.4 Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974).
The contractual obligations on the Club in exercising its disciplinary functions were, at most, to act fairly and to take reasonable steps to apply the rules of the Club and act in accordance with the law. There was no contractual obligation on the Club to reach a particular or correct decision and the Claimant could not claim for damages flowing from any wrongful decision, unless she could prove unfairness or negligence. Further, there was nothing unfair about the procedures adopted by the Club when taken as a whole. On a correct construction of the rules, the starting point was to establish if an offence had been committed of which the member had been convicted. In this case, the Claimant had been convicted following a trial in front of an independent tribunal who had heard all the relevant evidence. The Claimant was also given the chance to submit any mitigating factors she wished the Club’s committee to consider in writing.
In this case, the Defendant accepted for the purposes of the hearing that it had an implied contractual duty to act fairly. Similar issues were later explored in the case of The Jockey Club v Bradley, where Colgan was considered and explained.