Friday, 20 May 2011


If ever there was a salutary lesson to be learned by club committees, then reference to an instructive 1998 county court case becomes essential reading.
Here the club's disclinary proceedings against the plaintiff cost them a great deal of money. Essentially, the disclinary committee was found wanting on several fronts with regards to acting in good faith, in accordance with rules of natural justice, and with procedural fairness . Their mistakes , superbly outlined by the judge , were as follows :
1. Refusal to provide information requested ( by the plaintiff )
2. Despite quite legitimate and proper requests for further and better particulars, the committee simply said "no" and went ahead
3. The hearing was motivated by malice
4. Direct and improper motives included the desire to stifle the plaintiff's disquiet over the conduct of the meeting
5. The decision to expel the plaintiff was then taken in a wholly improper way
6. The plaintiff had a right to a fair hearing, but this did not take place given the fact that rules of natural justice were breached on several occasions
7. The committtee acted as prosecutor, judge and jury
8. The committee was seeking to act as a judge in respect to a complaint by one of its own members
9. There was no proper consideration of the plaintiff's claim: the committee went straight to punishment
10. There was no consideration as to whether the punishment fitted the crime
11. Declaring their intent to " vigorously defend " any challenge to their decision was further evidence of closed minds and ongoing procedural unfairness

12. Failure to take available legal advice at a crucial stage of the disciplinary proceeedings was a further example of their short-sighted approach

So if one takes this case as setting out some very useful ground rules , then club committees need to remove their blinkers and proceed with extreme care , especially when expulsions are on the agenda. Learning from hindsight often proves costly. Therefore, adopting foresight, an open mind, and a desire to be fair to the other party, will always prove to be excellent grounds for defending an action. The aim therefore, for any committee caught up in litigation, is to obtain protection from the judge, not condemnation.

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