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Ainsworth v Criminal Justice Commission (1992) 175 CLR 564

Administrative Law - Natural Justice - Criminal Justice Commission - Procedural Fairness - Mandamus - Certiorari

Facts; Leonard Hastings Ainsworth directed Ainsworth Nominees Pty. Ltd. A company that manufactured and supplied poker machines. The Criminal Justice Commission (CJC) was a statutory body assigned with composing a report about the introduction of poker machines into Queensland. The CJC was regulated under the Criminal Justice Act (1989). It was also a requirement of the CJC to present the report, under parliamentary privilege to the speaker of the Legislative Assembly and the Minister.

The Commission released a scathing report, which recommended that the Ainsworth and his group of companies should not be allowed to participate in the gaming machine industry in Queensland (QLD). As if that wasn't awkward enough, neither Ainsworth nor his company were aware of the report until it had been tabled and publicised. They were not given any opportunity to be heard on the matters raised in the report. Ainsworth and his group of companies initiated proceedings in the Supreme Court of Queensland, alleging a breach of natural justice and sought relief via certiorari and mandamus. [8] It was held that the duties of the CJC did not attract a duty of fairness under the Criminal Justice Act (1989) and Ainsworth applied by special leave to the High Court. On appeal to the High Court, the appellants alleged that the Act obliged the Commission to act in a way that ensured procedural fairness [Kioa v. West [1985] HCA 81]. They also argued that duty arose under the general law and was not excluded by the Act.

Application; Brennan J noted at [40] 'The only...significant, way in which the Report affected the interests of the appellants was by damaging their reputations.' Additionally, that an obligation to accord natural justice 'may be implied as a condition governing the exercise of a statutory power or, I would add, a statutory function.' Brennas J also went on to establish that the rule in Annetts v. McCann (1990) " It can now be taken as settled that, when a statute confers power upon a public official to destroy, defeat or prejudice a persons's rights, interests or legitimate

expectations, the rules of natural justice regulate the exercise of that power unless they are excluded by plain words of necessary intendment". In closing Brennan J determined that 'personal reputation has now been established as an interest which should not be damaged by an official finding after a statutory inquiry unless the person whose reputation is likely to be affected has had a full and fair opportunity to show why the finding should not be made.'

Holding; The High Court allowed the appeal and determined that the Commission should have given the appellants a chance to respond. However, the court found that both mandamus and certiorari were inadequate remedies [37]. The main reason that certiorari was deemed an inappropriate remedy is because 'the function of certiorari is to quash the legal effect or the legal consequences of the decision or order under review.' Since the report submitted by the CJC had no legal effect and carried no direct or indirect legal consequences, a remedy in certiorari was inappropriate. However the High Court determined that the appellants were denied procedural fairness [24]. The Judges determined that a duty of procedural fairness arises, if at all, because the power involved is one which may "destroy, defeat or prejudice a person's rights, interests or legitimate expectations."

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