Trust and Legitimate Expectations: A Relationship in Need of Conceptualisation

This paper revisits the trust conception of the doctrine of legitimate expectations in the UK. Under this conception, legitimate expectations are premised on the public’s trust in the relevant decision-makers. While I do not take issue with the trust conception per se, I argue that the conception, as theorised in the academic literature and applied by courts, is problematic: the relationship between trust and legitimate expectations requires further conceptualisation. Drawing on the social science scholarship on trust, I suggest that the trust conception suffers from three conceptual conflations: between trust and reliance; between trust’s cognitive and behavioural components; and between trust and trustworthiness. And I illustrate these three conflations using UK cases. The conflations, I submit, must be clarified before public trust can be useful as a theory of legitimate expectations.