swarb.co.uk - law index
These cases are from the lawindexpro database. They are now being transferred to the swarb.co.uk website in a better form. As a case is published there, an entry here will link to it. The swarb.co.uk site includes many later cases.
Constitutional - From: 1900 To: 1929
This page lists 38 cases, and was prepared on 14 July 2015.Quinn -v- Leathem  AC 495;  UKHL 2
5 Aug 1901
Lord Shand, Lord Macnaghten, Lord Lindley, Earl of Halsbury LC
Torts - Other, Contract, Constitutional
Quinn was treasurer of a Belfast butchers' association. Leathem, who traded as a butcher, employed some non-union men, although when the union made difficulties he asked for them to be admitted to the union, and offered to pay their dues. The union put pressure on Munce, a wholesale customer of Leathem, to stop buying his meat. It also called out Dickie, one of Leathem's employees. The jury found for Leathem, holding that there had been a malicious conspiracy between Quinn and other officers of the union. The Irish Court of Appeal affirmed this. Held. The appeal failed. A conspiracy 'wrongfully and maliciously' to induce customers and servants of the plaintiff not to deal with him was actionable on proof of damage. Though the coming together of a group of people is lawful, even though it results in injury to the interests of others, such an agreement for no purpose other than the pursuit of a malicious purpose to injure another would be unlawful. Any violation of legal rights, including rights under contract, committed knowingly and without justification, is a tortious act.
Lord MacNaghten said of Lumley v Gye: "I have no hesitation in saying that I think the decision was right, not on the ground of malicious intention - that was not, I think, the gist of the action - but on the ground that a violation of a legal right committed knowingly is a cause of action, and that it is a violation of legal right to interfere with contractual relations recognised by law if there be no sufficient justification for the interference."
Lord Lindley said that Lumley v Gye tort was an example of causing loss by unlawful means: "If the above reasoning is correct, Lumley v. Gye was rightly decided, as I am of opinion it clearly was. Further, the principle involved in it cannot be confined to inducements to break contracts of service, or indeed to inducements to break any contracts. The principle which underlies the decision reaches all wrongful acts done intentionally to damage a particular individual and actually damaging him." and
"a person's liberty or right to deal with others is nugatory, unless they are at liberty to deal with him if they choose to do so. Any interference with their liberty to deal with him affects him. If such interference is justifiable in point of law, he has no redress. Again, if such interference is wrongful, the only person who can sue in respect of it is, as a rule, the person immediately affected by it; another who suffers by it has usually no redress; the damage to him is too remote, and it would be obviously practically impossible and highly inconvenient to give legal redress to all who suffer from such wrongs. But if the interference is wrongful and is intended to damage a third person, and he is damaged in fact - in other words, if he is wrongfully and intentionally struck at through others, and is thereby damnified - the whole aspect of the case is changed: the wrong done to others reaches him, his rights are infringed although indirectly, and damage to him is not remote or unforeseen, but is the direct consequence of what has been done."
Lord Shand distinguished Allen v Flood: "As to the vital distinction between Allen v Flood and the present case, it may be stated in a single sentence. In Allen v Flood the purpose of the defendant was by the acts complained of to promote his own trade interest, which it was held he was entitled to do, although injurious to his competitors, whereas in the present case, while it is clear there was combination, the purpose of the defendants was 'to injure the plaintiff in his trade as distinguish from the intention of legitimately advancing their own interest.'"
Earl of Halsbury LC said: ". . a case is only an authority for what it actually decides."
[ Bailii ]
Rossi -v- Magistrates of Edinburgh (1904) 7 F (HL) 85
Scotland, Licensing, Constitutional
Conditions in an ice-cream vendors' licence which restricted their right to open their shops when they liked and sell what they pleased were held to be ultra vires of the licensing authority. The court applied the rule that while the legislature may make whatever changes to the law that it likes, subordinate legislative authorities can make only such changes in the law as Parliament has empowered them to make.
It is a general rule of construction that, while the legislature may make whatever changes to the law that it likes, subordinate legislative authorities can make only such changes in the law as Parliament has empowered them to make.
Mortensen -v- Peters (1906) 8 F (J) 93
Scotland, Constitutional, Agriculture
The Danish master of a Norwegian steam-trawler was prosecuted for using a particular method of fishing in the Moray Firth. He argued that, although the statute banning the method would have caught a British fisherman, it should be construed as impliedly excepting all foreigners fishing from foreign vessels outside the territorial jurisdiction of the British Crown. Held: The defence failed. Lord Salvesen said that it could scarcely be supposed that the British Parliament should pass legislation placing British fishermen under a disability which did not extend to foreigners: "I think, it was a just observation of the Solicitor General that, if legislation of this nature had been proposed, and the words inserted which the Dean of Faculty maintained were implied, it would never have been submitted by a responsible minister or have received the approval of Parliament."
Illinois Central Railroad Co -v- McKendree (1906) 203 US 514
(US Supreme Court) An order of the Secretary of Agriculture purporting to fix a quarantine line under the Cattle Contagious Disease Act (1903), which applied in terms to all shipments, whether interstate or intrastate, was void, notwithstanding that the same line was fixed as to intrastate shipments by legislation of the state through which it passed. Day J said: "It is urged by the government that it was not the intention of the Secretary to make provision for intrastate commerce, as the recital of the order shows an intention to adopt the state line, when the state by its legislature has passed the necessary laws to enforce the same completely and strictly. But the order in terms applies alike to interstate and intrastate commerce. . . . We do not say that the state line might not be adopted in a proper case, in the exercise of federal authority, if limited in its effect to interstate commerce coming from below the line, but that is not the present order, and we must deal with it as we find it. Nor have we the power to so limit the Secretary's order as to make it apply only to interstate commerce, which it is urged is all that is here involved. For aught that appears upon the face of the order, the Secretary intended it to apply to all commerce, and whether he would have made such an order, if strictly limited to interstate commerce, we have no means of knowing. The order is in terms single, and indivisible."
The Employers' Liability Cases (1908) 207 US 463
(US Supreme Court) The court heard together two appeals regarding the range of federal jurisdiction to legislate for the regulation of interstate commerce. The true construction of the federal statute whose constitutionality was in issue was controversial. Held: (Majority) The statute was unconstitutional. White J said: "Of course, if it can be lawfully done, our duty is to construe the statute so as to render it constitutional. But this does not imply, if the text of an act is unambiguous, that it may be rewritten to accomplish that purpose. Equally clear is it, generally speaking, that where a statute contains provisions which are constitutional and ethers which are not, effect may be given to the legal provisions by separating them from the illegal. But this applies only to a case where the provisions are separable and not dependent one upon the other, and does not support the contention that that which is indivisible may be divided. Moreover, even in a case where legal provisions may be severed from those which are illegal, in order to save the rule applies only where is is plain that Congress would have enacted the legislation with the unconsitutional provisions eliminated. All these principles are so clearly settled as not to be open to controversy. They were all, after a full review of the authorities, restated and reapplied in a recent case. Illinois Central Railroad v. McKendree, 203 U.S. 514, and authorities cited there."
Mangena -v- Edward Lloyd Ltd (1908) 98 LT 64; (1908) 24 TLR 610
The plaintiff claimed in defamation after the defendant had republished an extract from a paper laid before parliament. Held: The 'blue book' reflected material laid before both houses of parliament, and reproduction of it was protected under the 1840 Act.
As to whether the paper had been printed by malice, Darling J referred to an earlier case where a plea of justification had been placed on the record but the defendant at the trial had offered no evidence in support of it. Darling J added: "A plea of justification ought never to be put on the record unless the person believes in it and is prepared to support it with evidence".
Parliamentary Privileges Act 1840 3
Nairn -v- University of St Andrews; HL 10-Dec-1908 -  AC 147; 1909 SC (HL) 10;  UKHL 3; (1908) 16 SLT 619
Rex -v- Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, Ex parte Whybrow & Co; 1910 - (1910) 11 CLR 1
Rex -v- Earl of Crewe, Ex parte Sekgome; CA 1910 -  2 KB 576
Leach -v- Rex  AC 305
Save insofar as they are clearly and unambiguously intended to do so, statutes should not be construed so as to make alterations in the common law.
Bowles -v- Bank of England  1 Ch 57;  82 LJ Ch 124;  108 LT 95;  29 TLR 42;  57 Sol Jo 43;  6 Tax Cas 136
4 Nov 1912
Constitutional, Income Tax
The House of Commons Ways and means committee resolved to assent to the imposition of income tax at the required rate for the next year. Held: Such a resolution was inadequate to authorise the Crown to levy the tax by its deduction from the Bank's dividends payable to its shareholders. Authority could be granted only by statute. Parker J said: " No practice or custom, however prolonged or however acquiesced in on the part of the subject could be relied on by the Crown as justifying an infringement of the provisions of the unrepealed Bill of Rights."
Bill of Rights 1689
Scott -v- Scott; HL 5-May-1913 -  P 241;  AC 417; 29 TLR 520; [1911-13] All ER 1;  UKHL 2
G & C Kreglinger -v- The New Patagonian Meat and Cold Storage Company; HL 20-Nov-1913 -  AC 25;  UKHL 1
In Re Boaler  KB 21
Litigation Practice, Constitutional
The court was asked whether the 1896 Act which permitted a court to make an order that a person could not institute proceedings without the leave of the court, applied to the institution of criminal proceedings. Held: It did not. Scrutton J said: "In the case of this statute the legislature clearly intends to interfere with some rights of persons, and uses words capable of extension to rights of litigation in criminal matters, but in my opinion more suitable to the subject-matter of rights of litigation in civil matters only. In my view, looking at the enacting part of the statute only, the presumption against the interference with the vital rights and liberties of the subject entitles, even compels, me to limit the words to the meaning which effects the least interference with those rights." but "The object of the court is, from the words used, construed in reference to the subject-matter in which they are used, to get at the intention of the legislature and give effect to it. When the legislature has used general words capable of a larger and a narrower meaning, those words may be restricted by innumerable presumptions all designed to give effect to the reasonable intent of the legislature."
"One of the valuable rights of every subject of the King is to appeal to the King in his Courts if he alleges that a civil wrong has been done to him, or if he alleges that a wrong punishable criminally has been done to him, or has been committed by another subject of the King. This right is sometimes abused and it is, of course, quite competent to Parliament to deprive any subject of the King of it either absolutely or in part. But the language of any such statute should be jealously watched by the Courts, and should not be extended beyond its least onerous meaning unless clear words are used to justify such extension."
Vexatious Actions Act 1896
The Zamora  2 AC 77
Lord Parker of Waddington
Lord Parker said: "The idea that the King in Council, or indeed any branch of the Executive, has power to prescribe or alter the law to be administered by the Courts of law in this country is out of harmony with the principles of our Constitution . . Those who are responsible for the national security must be the sole judge of what the national security requires. It would be obviously undesirable that such matters should be made the subject of evidence in a court of law or otherwise discussed in public."
Taylor -v- Attorney General of Queensland (1917) 23 CLR 457
Barton J, Isaacs, Gavan Duffy, Rich and Powers JJ
(High Court of Australia) The 1908 Act provided that, when a bill passed by the Legislative Assembly in two successive sessions had in the same two sessions been rejected by the Legislative Council, it might be submitted by referendum to the electors, and, if affirmed by them, should be presented to the Governor for His Majesty's assent. Upon receiving such assent, the Bill was to become an Act of Parliament in the same manner as if passed by both Houses of Parliament, and notwithstanding any law to the contrary. Held: This was a valid and effective Act of Parliament by virtue of the power conferred upon the Legislature of Queensland by S.5 of the Colonial Laws Validity Act of 1865. It was further held that there was power to abolish the Legislative Council of Queensland by an Act passed by the Legislative Assembly and affirmed by the electors in accordance with the provisions of the 1908 Act. Barton J "The Constitution Act of 1867 provided for all laws passed under it to be enacted "by Her Majesty by and with the advice and consent of the Legislative Council and Legislative Assembly in Parliament assembled", and that the constitution did not recognise the making of laws by any other authority: "It is also true that in general the legislation of a body created by and acting under a written charter or constitution is valid only so far as it conforms to the authority conferred by that instrument of government, and that therefore attempted legislation, merely at variance with the charter or constitution, cannot be held an effective law on the ground that the authority conferred by that instrument includes a power to alter or repeal any part of it, if the legislation questioned has to be preceded by a good exercise of such power; that is, if the charter or constitution has not antecedently been so altered within the authority given by that document itself. … Normally, therefore, in the absence of such a provision as s.5 of the Imperial Act, I should have been prepared to hold that the [1908 Act], which, though it professed to be an amendment of the Constitution Act of 1867, was merely, in view of its provisions, an Act at variance with the constitution, not preceded by a valid extension of the constitutional power, was therefore itself, as it stood, invalid. But in the present case the Imperial provision seems to me to take away the application of the principle I have stated to legislation of the kind which it authorises."
Queensland Parliamentary Bills Referendum Act of 1908
Rex (at the prosecution of Arthur Zadig) -v- Halliday; HL 1-May-1917 -  UKHL 1;  AC 260
Re the Initiative and Referendum Act  AC 935
The Board heard a referral from the Manitoba government to the Court of King’s Bench for a ruling upon the question of whether the Manitoba Legislative Assembly had jurisdiction to enact a referendum act. Mathers CJ had decided that the legislature had such authority. The Court of Appeal overturned that decision. The parties took the matter directly to the Privy Council without going first to the Supreme Court of Canada. Held. The lieutenant Governor had no such power. Viscount Haldane ruled the legislation unconstitutional. The Act, which would permit an initiative voted upon by voters at large to become law if approved by a majority without passage through the legislature and without royal assent, was unconstitutional. A "legislature may not "create and endow with its own capacity a new legislative power not created by the Act to which it owes its own existence"
The scheme of the Constitution Act, 1867 was "not to weld the Provinces into one, nor to subordinate Provincial Governments to a central authority, but to establish a central government in which these Provinces should be represented, entrusted with exclusive authority only in affairs in which they had a common interest. Subject to this each Province was to retain its independence and autonomy and to be directly under the Crown as its head."
The Board stated (obiter) that while a legislature could delegate legislation to subordinate agencies: "it does not follow that it can create and endow with its own capacity a new legislative power not created by the British North America Act to which it owes it own existence."
Viscount Haldane expressed a reservation that the ability to legislate for the government of a territory does not extend to establishing a legislature for a self-governing territory armed with general legislative authority: "No doubt a body, with a power of legislation on the subjects entrusted to it so ample as that enjoyed by a Provincial Legislature in Canada, could, while preserving its own capacity intact, seek the assistance of subordinate agencies, as had been done when in Hodge v. The Queen, the Legislature of Ontario was held entitled to entrust to a Board of Commissioners authority to enact regulations relating to taverns; but it does not follow that it can create and endow with its own capacity a new legislative power not created by the Act to which it owes its own existence. Their Lordships do no more than draw attention to the gravity of the constitutional questions which thus arise."
Sellar -v- Highland Railway Co (No.1)  UKHL 1; 1919 1 SLT 149; 1919 SC (HL) 19
24 Jan 1919
Scotland, Constitutional, Natural Justice
The House considered whether a judge should recuse himself in a case involving a company in which he owned shares.
[ Bailii ]
McCawley -v- The King  AC 691
The Board was asked whether a Queensland statute authorising the Governor in Council to appoint a judge of the Court of Industrial Arbitration to hold office for seven years, was in fatal conflict with a provision of the 1859 Order in Council and a section of the Constitution Act 1867. Held: It was not, since the legislature of Queensland had power to enact the Queensland statute both under s.5 of the 1865 Act and under clause 22 of the Order in Council. Lord Birkenhead compared and contrasted controlled and uncontrolled constitutions: "… a constitution [is not] debarred from being reckoned as an uncontrolled constitution because it is not, like the British constitution, constituted by historic development, but finds its genesis in an originating document which may contain some conditions which cannot be altered except by the power which gave it birth. It is of the greatest importance to notice that where the constitution is uncontrolled the consequences of its freedom admit of no qualification whatever."
Colonial Laws Validity Act 1865 5
Chester -v- Bateson  1 KB 829
Darling J, Avory J
A Regulation brought in under the 1914 Act prohibited the bringing of possession proceedings against a munitions worker without the consent of the Minister. Held. The prohibition was unlawful. It was a grave invasion of the rights of the subjects and this could not be achieved by a departmental order. Avory J said: "In my opinion there is not to be found in the statute anything to authorize or justify a regulation having that result; and nothing less than express words in the statute taking away the right of the King’s subjects of access to the Courts of justice would authorize or justify it."
Defence of the Realm Consolidation Act 1914
Attorney General -v- De Keyser's Royal Hotel Ltd; HL 10-May-1920 -  AC 508;  UKHL 1;  All ER 80; (1920) 36 TLR 600; (1920) 122 LT 691
Carlton Hotel Co -v- Lord Advocate 1921 SC 237
Lord Dundas: "This is a summary petition under section 91 of the Court of Session Act, 1868, for an order for specific performance of an alleged statutory duty. The remedy thus sought is peculiar and drastic. It has not, I believe, been frequently resorted to; I am aware of only one reported instance. Those who invoke this remedy must, I think, be careful to aver a clear statutory duty which those on whom its performance is incumbent have refused, or unduly delayed, to perform; and to state in precise terms the order which, by their prayer, is sought from the Court." and "Section 91 was, in my judgment, never intended to provide a medium for the expiscation of intricate and doubtful duties, but rather for the summary enforcement of clearly existing ones, the due performance of which is neglected."
Court of Session Act 1868 91
Attorney-General -v- Wilts United Dairies Ltd; CA 1921 - (1921) 37 TLR 884
Newcastle Breweries Ltd -v- The King  KB 854
The court was asked to consider the validity of regulation 2B of the Realm Regulations made under section 1 of the 1914 Act. Held: The presumption against a statute authorising the expropriation of a subject's property without payment is even stronger in the context of delegated legislation. Absent a clear provision conferring power to make retrospective delegated legislation, the assumption of such a power offends the legality principle.
Salter J said: "I do not think that a regulation which takes away the subjects right to a judicial decision , or transfer the adjudication of his claim without his content, from a court of law to named arbitrators, could fairly be held to be a regulation fro securing the public safety and the defence of the realm, or a regulation designed to prevent the successful prosecution of the war being endangered within the meaning of these words in the defence of the realm consolidation Act, 1914".
Defence of the Realm Consolidation Act 1914 1
Attorney-General -v- Wilts United Dairies Ltd; HL 1922 - (1922) 38 TLR 781
Viscountess Rhondda's Claim  2 AC 339
Viscount Haldane, Lord Birkenhead LC
Litigation Practice, Constitutional, Discrimination
(Committee of Privileges of the House of Lords) Viscountess Rhondda asserted a right to sit in the House of Lords as a member, relying on the 1919 Act. Held: It is incorrect for a court to draw conclusions from such elements of the Parliamentary history of the legislation as the proposal and rejection of amendments. It is the sole right of the Committee to decide who was entitled to receive the Writ of Summons and Lord Lyndhurst said that if a person is entitled to a writ, but the Crown does not issue one, then his remedy is to petition the House.
Lord Birkenhead LC said: "The rule that the words of an instrument shall be taken most strictly against the party employing them - verba chartarum fortius accipiuntur contra proferentem - does not apply to the Crown such a grant is construed most strictly against the grantee and most beneficially for the Crown, so that nothing will pass to the grantee but by clear and express words." It was the duty of the Committee for Privileges to consider whether she was entitled to receive a Writ of Summons: "The writ is not to be issued capriciously or withheld capriciously at the pleasure of the Sovereign or of this House. It is to be issued, or withheld, according to the law relating to the matter, and if, under that law, it appears that there is a debt of justice to the petitioner in that matter, the writ will issue and, if not, it cannot issue."
Lord Lyndhurst said: "If a Writ of Summons is improperly withheld, your Lordships can insist upon its being issued. You may address the Crown for that purpose if you think proper. If that address to the Crown is unavailing, there is a remedy that in a remarkable case has been resorted to and which was effectual to attain its object. The Peers in Parliament, in that case, refused to proceed to business until the Writ of Summons was issued and until the House was properly constituted, and the historian who records this fact says that the means adopted were so effectual that the King was induced to issue the Writ of Summons and that the abuse of which they complained never occurred again. That is a remedy when the Writ of Summons is withheld. On the other hand, when a party has obtruded himself upon the House in which he has no right to sit, the remedy is equally plain. It is your duty to direct your Officers to refuse to administer the oaths, or allow the party to take his seat."
Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919
Alexander E Hall & Co v Mackenna  IR 402
Viscount Haldane discussed the status of the Privy Council: "The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council is not an English body in any exclusive sense. It is no more an English body than it is an Indian body, or a Canadian body, or a South African body, or, for the future, an Irish Free State body . . I mention that for the purpose of bringing out the fact that the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council is not a body, strictly speaking, with any location. The Sovereign is everywhere throughout the Empire in the contemplation of the law."
Secretary of State for Home Affairs -v- O'Brien  AC 603
Lord Birkenhead, Lord Atkinson
Litigation Practice, Constitutional
The Home Secrtary appealed against the issue of a writ of habeas corpus against him in respect of a prisoner held in Mountjoy prison in the Irish Free State. He had been arrested in London and interned in Ireland, but the appellant had given assurances to the House of Commons that he could request and cahieve his return. Held: The appeal was dismissed on jurisdictional grounds.
A writ of Habeas Corpus is perhaps the most important writ known to the constitutional law of England affording as it does a swift and imperative remedy in all cases of illegal restraint or confinement. It is of immemorial antiquity, an instance of its use occurring in the thirty third year of Edward I. It has through the ages been jealously maintained by the courts of law as a check upon the illegal usurpation of power by the executive at the cost of liege.
Lord Atkinson said that a writ of habeas corpus: "operates with coercive force upon the Home Secretary to compel him to produce in Court the body of the respondent. If the Executive of the Free State adhere to the arrangement made with him he can with its aid discharge the obligation thus placed upon him. If the Irish Executive should fail to help him he would be placed in a very serious position. Unless this Executive breaks what has been styled its bargain with the Home Secretary he had, in effect, the respondent under his power and control. It would be rather unfair to this Executive to assume gratuitously beforehand that it would not keep the bargain made with it, simply because that bargain was not enforceable at law."
Attorney General for Ontario -v- Attorney General for Canada; PC 1924 -  AC 750; 94 LJPC 132; (1924) 4 DLR 520
Prager -v- Blatspiel, Stamp and Heacock Ltd; 1924 -  1 KB 566
Rex -v- Electricity Commissioners, ex parte London Electricity Joint Committee Co (1920) Ltd; 1924 -  1 KB 171
Attorney-General -v- Great Southern and Western Rly Co of Ireland; HL 1925 -  AC 754
The Toronto Electric Commissioners -v- Snider and Others; PC 20-Jan-1925 -  UKPC 2
The Fagernes; CA 1927 -  P 311
Colonial Sugar Refining Co Ltd -v- Melbourne Harbour Trust Commissioners  AC 343;  UKPC 2
18 Jan 1927
Lord Warrington, Lord Darling, Viscont Haldane, Viscount Finlay, Viscount Dunedin
An Act removing the right of appeal to the Privy Council was held not to affect an appeal in litigation pending when the Act was passed and decided after its passing, on the ground that (Lord Warrington) '[t]o deprive a suitor in pending litigation of an appeal to a superior tribunal which belonged to him as of right is a very different thing from regulating procedure'. And "In considering the construction and effect of this Act the Board is guided by the well known principle that a statute should not be held to take away private rights of property without compensation unless the intention to do so is expressed in clear and unambiguous terms" and "When we are seeking the intention of Parliament that may appear from express words but it may also appear by irresistible inference from the statute read as a whole. But I would agree that, if there is a reasonable doubt, the subject should be given the benefit of the doubt."
A statute should not be held to take away property rights without compensation unless the intention to do so is expressed in terms which are clear and unambiguous.
Lord MacNaghten: "As regards the general principles applicable to the case there was no controversy. On the one hand, it was not disputed that if the matter in question be a matter of procedure only, the petition is well founded. On the other hand, if it be more than a matter of procedure, if it touches a right in existence at the passing of the Act, it was conceded that, in accordance with a long line of authorities extending from the time of Lord Coke to the present day, the appellants would be entitled to succeed. The Judiciary Act is not retrospective by express enactment or by necessary intendment. And therefore the only question is, Was the appeal to His Majesty in Council a right vested in the appellants at the date of the passing of the Act, or was it a mere matter of procedure? It seems to their Lordships that the question does not admit of doubt. To deprive a suitor in a pending action of an appeal to a superior tribunal which belonged to him as of right is a very different thing from regulating procedure. In principle, their Lordships see no difference between abolishing an appeal altogether and transferring the appeal to a new tribunal. In either case there is an interference with existing rights contrary to the well-known general principle that statutes are not to be held to act retrospectively unless a clear intention to that effect is manifested."
[ Bailii ]
Great Western Railway Co -v- Mostyn (Owners)  AC 57; 97 LJP8; 138 LT 403
Viscount Haldane, Viscount Dunedin
The House considered the application of a case precedent where they had been uunable to extract a binding ratio decidendi. Held: A ratio decidendi cannot be created by aggregating views of minority judges and views of majority judges to secure a numerical majority on a particular issue. Viscount Dunedin (dissenting) said as to the ratio of the case referred to: "Now, when any tribunal is bound by the judgment of another Court, either superior or co-ordinate, it is, of course, bound by the judgment itself. And if from the opinions delivered it is clear - as is the case in most instances - what the ratio decidendi was which led to the judgment, then that ratio decidendi is also binding. But it is not clear, then I do not think it is part of the tribunal's duty to spell out with great difficulty a ratio decidendi in order to be bound by it. That is what the Court of Appeal has done here. With great hesitation they have added the opinion of Lord Hatherley to that of Lord Cairns and then, with still greater difficulty, that of Lord Blackburn, and so have secured what they think was a majority in favour of Lord Cairns's very clear view. I do not think that the respect which they hold and have expressed for the judgments of your Lordships' House compelled them to go through this difficult and most unsatisfactory performance." and "[Y]ou cannot extract from the judgments in Wear v Adamson such a ratio decidendi as is binding. That, however, is far from wiping Wear v Adamson off the slate. It remains for two purposes. First, for the judgment itself and, second, for the opinions of the noble Lords, which are entitled to the greatest respect. Now, the judgment is binding. What, therefore, I think is our duty on this occasion is to consider the statute for ourselves in the light of the opinions, diverging as they are, and to give an interpretation; but that interpretation must necessarily be one which would not, if it applied to the facts of Wear v Adamson, lead to a different result."
Harbours, Docks and Piers Clauses Act 1847 74
Edwards and Others -v- The Attorney General of Canada Appeal No. 121 of 1928;  AC 124;  UKPC 86
18 Oct 1929
Lord Sankey LC
(Canada) A constitutional Act act should not be interpreted narrowly or technically. Rights in conventions, treaties and like instruments are interpreted like a "living tree capable of growth and expansion within its natural limits." (Lord Sankey LC), and "Customs are apt to develop into traditions which are stronger than law and remain unchallenged long after the reason for them has disappeared."
[ Bailii ]
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