Judges have a duty to act impartially and without bias. This duty is enshrined in common law principles and is essential for upholding the rule of law.
Recusal is an important ethical and legal principle in the justice system, designed to ensure that legal proceedings are conducted fairly and impartially, and that the rights of all parties are protected. It helps maintain public trust in the legal system and upholds the principles of justice and due process.
The basic principle is that a court or tribunal hearing a case must be impartial and that justice “should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done” R v Sussex Justices
Recusal is when a judge steps down (recuses) from hearing a case on the basis that it’s not appropriate for them to deal with it. They may have a conflict of interest or there might be actual, presumed or apparent bias against a party. There may also be a real possibility that a fair-minded observer would conclude that the judge should not try the case because they cannot be impartial.
A judge can decide to recuse themselves of their own volition, or a party can make an application for recusal. The application should be made at the beginning of any hearing or proceedings.
What is a conflict of interest ?
A conflict of interest (COI) refers to a situation in which a judge is involved in multiple interests or relationships, and these interests or relationships could potentially compromise their ability to make impartial or objective decisions. In such situations, there is a risk that personal or financial considerations may unduly influence a judge’s actions or decisions.
What is bias ?
“Bias is an attitude of mind that prevents the judge from making an objective determination of the issues that they have to resolve” Re Medicaments and Related Classes of Goods (No 2)  1 WLR 700, Para 37.
The University of Oxford Faculty of Law published Determining Bias: A survey of the law in the United Kingdom in January 2020
Following the decision of the Court of Appeal in In Re Medicaments and Related Classes of Goods (No 2)  1 WLR 700, the accepted test is that laid down in Porter v Magill  UKHL 67,  2 AC 357, para 103: “whether the fair-minded and informed observer, having considered the facts, would conclude that there was a real possibility that the tribunal was biased”……. The characteristics of the fair-minded and informed observer are now well understood: he must adopt a balanced approach and will be taken to be a reasonable member of the public, neither unduly complacent or naïve nor unduly cynical or suspicious.R v. Abdroikof (Appellant) and another (On Appeal from the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division)
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