Discuss the natural justice process in sport tribunals. Should athletes at either domestic or professional level be able to have legal representation?
Natural justice process in sport tribunals
In sport tribunals as in courts the laws of natural justice are applied to ensure that an accused person is given the right to a fair trial. Healy (2009, 114) confirms this and outlines the laws of natural justice in relation to sport tribunals as “giving the accused person protection by asserting that:
* The person accused of misconduct should know the nature of the accusation made;
* The person should be given the opportunity to state his or her case; and
* The ...view middle of the document...
* The notification should clearly outline the expectations and rights of the accused, including any entitlement to legal representation.”
Opportunity to state case
The laws of natural justice require an accused person to have the opportunity to respond to the allegations which have been made against them. The accused must also be given a reasonable amount of time to prepare their case and provide witnesses who they feel will help them defend the allegations.
In addition to this ‘Under natural justice principles, a person should be given the opportunity to address the tribunal when the question of penalty is decided’ (aussport.gov.au). The penalty options that a tribunal can impose must be specifically outlined in the organisations constitution or by-laws.” It must also be noted that they penalty must be deemed to be fair and not excessive as an athlete may be able to challenge the penalty in court as a restraint of livelihood.
Acting In good faith
The laws of natural justice also ensure that a court or in the case of sports, a tribunal, must act in good faith. In basic terms to act in good faith the people comprising the tribunal which is hearing the case must do so with an open mind and not be biased in any way.
The laws of natural justice must be adhered to by sports tribunals without fail. If a sports organisation fails to ensure that an accused athlete or official is given the right to a fair hearing they open themselves to the possibility of a challenge to their findings in a court of law which may be both time and labour intensive and expensive. In addition to this there is the possibility that an athlete who is guilty of an offence will have the verdict overturned as a result of a court finding that natural justice was denied.
The laws of natural justice not only protect the accused and their right to a fair and un-biased hearing but when followed correctly protect a tribunal from having their findings and penalties challenged in court.
Should Athletes Be allowed legal representation in a tribunal?
Currently athletes at a domestic or international level do not necessarily have the right to legal representation at a tribunal hearing, instead is dependent on the rules outlined in the constitution or by-laws of each organisation. ‘If the rules of an association provide for legal representation, it should of course be allowed; if it is not, a breach of the rules has occurred’ (Disciplinary Hearings (Domestic Tribunals)). Healy (2009, 117) details that generally courts have refused to imply a right of legal representation where the rules of an association are explicitly against it.
The decision to either allow or deny legal representation is an interesting and important decision for each association to make, and one which must be given considerable thought. Is it fair for the accused not to have the option for legal representation in a hearing which could directly affect their ability to derive an income...