Suppose there is a public institution (i.e. funded by the government using tax payers' money) in England that was set up through a Royal Charter. The institution has a Code of Conduct for a specific type of activity being carried out by this institution, as well as a second document that prescribes the Procedure for Investigation in case a violation of the Code of Conduct comes to light.

My question is: are these documents legally binding on this public institution? In other words, if powerful officials within this institution ignore this Code of Conduct and refuse to follow the prescribed Procedure for investigating any reported misconduct, can they be held to account by the law in England?

I have heard that in several other countries, an institution's own Code of Conduct automatically becomes legally binding on that institution. Is this the case in the UK too? If yes, which specific laws apply here?

If it is not legally binding, does it mean top officials in the institution can implement the Code of Conduct at their own will and fancy - penalising certain individuals when it suits them and looking the other way if that's what suits them?


Despite your second paragraph, whether officials a Code of Conduct is legally binding is not the same question as whether the officials subject to it can be "held to account by the law". Decisions made by many public officials (though certainly not everybody in an organisation "set up by the government using public money", which would apply to many charities and quangos) are subject to judicial review, and in examining whether a decision was reasonable the court will certainly find useful a Code of Conduct setting out the principles that should be followed and the factors that should be taken into account; but nothing is legally binding unless covered by a law. So if a Code says "all decisions should be given within two weeks" and you have heard nothing for a month, you have reasonable grounds for complaint and possibly (you should certainly ask a lawyer) for judicial review if the delay has caused you identifiable damage. But no law has been broken.

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