Aldermen's court must explain its decision

LAW REPORT v 27 September 1995 Regina v Corporation of London and another, ex parte Matson; Court of Appeal (Lord Justice Neill, Lord Justice Waite and Lord Justice Swinton-Thomas) 18 August 1995

The Court of Aldermen of the City of London was under a duty to give reasons when deciding whether or not to ratify the election of an alderman.

The Court of Appeal unanimously allowed an appeal by Malcolm Matson against the refusal of Mr Justice Latham, on 16 March 1995, to grant his application for judicial review to quash the decision of the Court of Aldermen, on 6 December 1994, not to confirm Mr Matson's election as an alderman. The matter was remitted for reconsideration by the Court of Aldermen with a direction to give reasons.

Lord Lester QC and Anthony White (Clifford Chance) for Mr Matson; Jeremy Sullivan QC, Richard Price, and M. Hunt (A.J. Colvin, Comptroller & City Solicitor) for the Corporation of London.

Lord Justice Neill said the City of London was the only municipal corporation still to retain the office of alderman, which was of Anglo-Saxon origin and had always been one of some importance and dignity. The 25 aldermen took part in each of the three assemblies which controlled the City's functions: the Court of Aldermen, the Court of Common Council and the Common Hall. They also sat as magistrates and from their number were chosen both the Sheriff and Lord Mayor of London.

The election of an alderman in the City of London took place in two stages: first, an election by the voters at a wardmote; second, confirmation by the Court of Aldermen. The first stage was statutorily recognised as a "local government election" by virtue of section 191(1) of the Representation of the People Act 1983; but the second stage remained customary and applied regardless of whether the fitness and qualification of an elected alderman had been called into question by the petition of an interested person.

On 7 November 1994 a wardmote was held to elect an alderman for the ward of Bread Street, the previous incumbent having resigned. There were two candidates. A poll was held on 8 November and Mr Matson was elected by 54 votes to 15, having received 78 per cent of the votes cast on a turnout of 57 per cent.

He was summoned and duly appeared before the Court of Aldermen on 6 December 1994. No petition or motion to reject had been presented to the court and Mr Matson had not been given notice of any matter on which he might be asked questions. After he had been introduced, the court conferred in private for about 45 minutes. He was then interviewed for about 40 minutes, being asked questions about his involvement in a recent election of common councilmen, about his platform for election, about his businesses and about his charity work. The court then held a secret ballot: there were 17 votes against his admission, one in favour and one abstention. The Lord Mayor then informed Mr Matson that the court was unable to confirm his election.

The applicant complained both as to the decision itself, which he said was perverse, and as to the failure to give reasons.

In his Lordship's judgment, it was appropriate that before an alderman's election was confirmed the Court of Aldermen should consider not only whether there were any matters which told against him but also whether his experience, attainments and personal qualities fitted him for this exacting role.

On the limited information available, given the lack of reasons, it was impossible to say that the decision of the Court of Aldermen was flawed for procedural unfairness. The procedure laid down in the Orders and Rules was followed and the question of Mr Matson's suitability occupied the court's attention for a considerable time. Nor could the decision be said to be ex facie unreasonable.

However, fairness and natural justice required that this decision should not be allowed to go unexplained. Mr Matson was standing for public office in which he wished to serve his constituents and the City of London. He was democratically elected by a substantial majority. In the absence of reasons, he could not know the basis for his rejection or whether he should stand again.

The Court of Aldermen was a court of record whose decision was announced in public. The giving of reasons would not frustrate its exercise of customary powers. On the contrary, it would enable the court to ensure its decisions were manifestly just and in the interests of the City.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR and Payroll Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This dynamic outsourced contact...

Recruitment Genius: Production & Quality Control Assistant

£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity for a ...

Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor - Kettering - £32,000

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor with an established...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Generalist

£40 - 50k (DOE) + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a HR Manager / HR Genera...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing