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Key decisions

  • Isbester v Knox City Council [2015] HCA 20
  • Lindsay v The Queen [2015] HCA 16
  • Uelese v Minister for Immigration and Border Protection [2015] HCA 15
  • Minister for Immigration and Border Protection v WZAPN [2015] HCA 22
  • Queensland v Congoo [2015] HCA 17
  • King v Philcox [2015] HCA 19
  • Selig v Wealthsure Pty Ltd [2015] HCA 18

Administrative law

Tribunals – bias – panel of municipal council considering destruction of dog – panel member involved in prosecution of dog owner

In Isbester v Knox City Council [2015] HCA 20 (10 June 15) H was an officer of the respondent council and responsible for coordinating local laws.

He was responsible for prosecuting the appellant Isbester in the Magistrate’s Court (Vic) under s 29(4) of the Dog Act (Vic) for owning a dog that had attacked a person. Isbester was convicted on a plea of guilty.

The Council had adopted a procedure of creating a panel to consider the separate question under s 29(12) of whether the dog should be destroyed. H was a member of the three person panel (who were all relevant delegates) and actively involved in its deliberations.

The panel held a hearing and Isbester was heard. After the hearing one panel member/delegate K decided the dog should be destroyed and H agreed to provide a statement of reasons. Isbester sought judicial review claiming the decision was affected by bias.

She failed before the primary judge in the Supreme Court of Victoria and before the Court of Appeal (Vic). Her appeal to the High Court was allowed by all members of the Court: Kiefel, Bell, Keane, Nettle JJ jointly; sim Gageler J. The members of the joint judgment concluded that H’s active interest as ‘prosecutor’ made her membership of the panel ‘incompatible’ with a fair hearing: Ebner v Official Trustee in Bankruptcy (2000) 205 CLR 337. Appeal allowed.

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