RIDGE v BALDWIN NO.1

Justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done’ is a phrase too often overlooked by those seeking legal remedy; and so, when fear and prejudice cloud the flow of proceedings, the outcome is one left wanting, when on this occasion, the alleged actions of a police employee provoke a one-sided evaluation of accounts.

In 1925, the appellant joined Brighton police force where he was regularly promoted until reaching the position of chief constable; while at this time, the police were overlooked by the watch committee, who were endowed with powers short of that held by the Secretary of State.

In 1957, and at a time close to the point of his retirement, the appellant was embroiled in a conspiracy charge involving himself and four other officers; upon which, the the respondent watch committee took steps to suspend him from service under the terms of the Police Discipline (Deputy Chief Constables, Assistant Chief Constables and Chief Constables) Regulations 1952, while allowing him full pay under regulation 15 of the same legal instrument.

Having been tried in the Central Criminal Court, the appellant was acquitted of the charges brought against him; after which, his solicitor requested he be reinstated. At the summation of the trial, the presiding judge passed comment as to the qualities shown by the appellant when carrying out his role, by saying to those sentenced:

“[N]either of you had that professional and moral leadership which both of you should have had and were entitled to expect from the chief constable of Brighton, now acquitted…”

Within a month, the appellant was tried for a second indictment concerning the receipt of £20 from a known criminal, to which he pleaded not guilty, and for which the prosecution offered no evidence with which to convict; whereupon the judge commented again:

“This prospect and this risk will remain until a leader is given to the force who will be a new influence, and who will set a different example from that which has lately obtained.”

The next day, the appellant was informed of a watch committee meeting yet was extended no invitation, after which he received a letter informing him of his dismissal.

The reasons cited were based upon numerous unfounded statements by members of both the committee and the town clerk, both suggesting his negligence in the discharge of duty, thus being unfit for purpose, and that the decision had been based upon conferred powers of section 191(4) of the Municipal Corporations Act 1882

That same day, the appellant’s solicitor wrote to the Secretary of State contending that the dismissal was unlawful, an affront to the processes of natural justice, and that they were appealing under the Police (Appeals) Act 1927, on grounds that the terms of the dismissal failed to disclose specific details that in turn were subject to his right to provide a statement of defence under regulation 18 of SI 1952 No.1706.

In such circumstances, there must also be a tribunal hearing, whereupon submissions by both parties must be evaluated and assessed before the watch committee can, on proof of the evidence, decide the appropriate punishment where justified.

By the provisions of the Police Pensions Act 1948, it was then the duty of the Secretary of State to determine if those dismissed were entitled to their pensions where relevant, and on this occasion the appellant was asking for such rights instead of reinstatement.

Having been brought before the courts, the first judge held that that the dismissal was null and void, but subject to the final decision of the Secretary of State, who had at such time, dismissed the appellant’s appeal, whereupon a similar fate was found in the Court of Appeal.

Presented for a final time to the House of Lords, the facts were explored to a greater extent; at which point, it was held by majority that the respondents’ were obliged under section 4(1) of the Police Act 1919, to provide the appellant with an opportunity to defend himself against the claims proposed yet unproven, and that to circumvent the legal procedures expected, was tantamount to a violation of natural justice and subsequently void of merit.

It was for that reason, that the appeal was allowed and the matter referred back to the courts for revisitation of the facts, with note that the appellant sought only his full pension rights and not a return to work, while the court reminded the parties that:

“[T]he essential requirements of natural justice at least include that before someone is condemned he is to have an opportunity of defending himself, and in order that he may do so that he is to be made aware of the charges or allegations or suggestions which he has to meet…”