Definitions

Natural justice

Natural justice

Natural justice or procedural fairness is a legal philosophy used in some jurisdictions in the determination of just, or fair, processes in legal proceedings. The concept is very closely related to the principle of natural law (Latin: jus naturale) which has been applied as a philosophical and practical principle in the law in several common law jurisdictions, particularly the UK and Australia.

According to Roman law certain basic legal principles are required by nature, or so obvious that they should be applied universally without needing to be enacted into law by a legislator. The assertion in the United States' Declaration of Independence, "We hold these truths to be self-evident," expresses some of this sentiment. The rules or principles of natural justice are now regularly applied by the courts in both common law and Roman law jurisdictions. Natural justice operates on the principles that man is basically good, that a person of good intent should not be harmed, and one should treat others as one would like to be treated.

Natural justice includes the notion of procedural fairness and may incorporate the following guidelines:

  • A person accused of a crime, or at risk of some form of loss, should be given adequate notice about the proceedings (including any charges).
  • A person making a decision should declare any personal interest they may have in the proceedings.
  • A person who makes a decision should be unbiased and act in good faith. He therefore can not be one of the parties in the case, or have an interest in the outcome. This is expressed in the Latin maxim, nemo judex in sua causa: "no man is permitted to be judge in his own cause".
  • Proceedings should be conducted so they are fair to all the parties - expressed in the Latin maxim audi alteram partem: "let the other side be heard".
  • Each party to a proceeding is entitled to ask questions and contradict the evidence of the opposing party.
  • A decision-maker should take into account relevant considerations and extenuating circumstances, and ignore irrelevant considerations.
  • Justice should be seen to be done. If the community is satisfied that justice has been done, they will continue to place their faith in the courts.

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