Disciplinary Procedures against Club Members
Club's have in their articles of association, or regulations, sections dealing with disciplinary procedures against members of the Club who breach or cause infractions of the Club's rules.
Responsibility for Disciplinary Action
The bringing of proceedings against a member for a serious breach should not be taken lightly. It is the Club's officers and office holder's task of adjudicating on these infractions and it should be noted that their decision could be challenged in the courts.
When deciding to institute proceedings, there are a number of tests that are applicable:
- Did the member commit an infraction of the rules?
- Do the club rules give power to the Board to hear the particular offence?
- Can disciplinary proceedings be brought and enforced?
- Has the offence been proved to the satisfaction of the disciplinary body?
- Which of the rules give a power to enforce a penalty?
If a Board's decision is challenged, one of the questions may concern natural justice, for example:
- Was adequate notice given to the member of the convening of the hearing?
- Was a detailed breach of the infraction given to the member?
- Was there a bias or malice by the Board?
If the Board or Committee is predisposed to find against the member then he/she has no chance of a "fair" hearing. If the result is predetermined due to feelings of prejudice and the Board is acting in an arbitrary manner, or because of some pecuniary interests by members of the Board, this also will give grounds to a possible successful appeal and possible costly litigation.
Therefore the independence of the Board (not to act as judge and jury) should be borne in mind. Also, adjudication by the Board should be formalised, i.e. using a documented, set out procedure with the same method and format adopted each time.
Club Disciplinary Code
Naturally it is incumbent on the Board to act in utmost "good faith". When Clubs follow established rules and procedures the courts are generally reluctant to interfere. It is accepted practice for a Club to regulate its own affairs when there has been an infraction of rules. Where courts have considered domestic disputes they have favoured internal resolution wherever possible.
If a disciplinary code has to be drawn up, then it should be recorded in the Articles of Association or the Club rules:
- Giving adequate notice of the charge to the member (eg. 14 days);
- A detailed notification of the charge;
- Who will be hearing and adjudicating the matter;
- An opportunity for the member to please his/her defence;
- The penalty if found guilty;
- The right of appeal and the way these proceedings should be conducted.
The court jurisdiction cannot be ousted but a court would look favourably on a Club's efforts to have in place a system that gave an opportunity for an objective hearing.
As previously stated any person who is aggrieved by a decision of the Club, has the right to take it to the court and therefore it is stressed once again that it is important that all these elements are satisfied.
The enforcement of disciplinary action is sometimes unavoidable as the onus on the Board and Officers (Management) to meet the obligation to run the club in such a way as to the "benefit and enjoyment" of its members.
The Liquor Act outlines numerous penalty provisions if quarrelsome and violent behaviour or intoxication takes place in the Club. These issues arise because of an obligation of compliance in relation to the Acts and Regulations. Therefore, the maintaining of "good order" and protecting the licence make it essential that a club has in its articles or rules sufficient provision and procedures that enable the enforcement of these legal and social obligations.