Clients sued their solicitors for negligence. The solicitors responded by claiming that, when acting as advocates, they had the same immunities granted to barristers.
Held: The immunity from suit for negligence enjoyed by advocates acting in both criminal and civil proceedings is no longer appropriate or in the public interest and is removed: ‘The standard of care to be applied in negligence actions against an advocate is the same as that applicable to any other skilled professional who has to work in an environment where decisions and exercises of judgment have to be made in often difficult and time constrained circumstances. It requires a plaintiff to show that the error was one which no reasonably competent member of the relevant profession would have made.’ Recent changes in procedure designed to reduce vexatious litigation, and the doctrine against collateral attack should be dealt with by more specific remedies. Experience in foreign common law jurisdictions did not indicate a need for the immunity. The courts can be trusted to differentiate between errors of judgment and true negligence. The section did not create a statutory bar on claims in negligence.
Lord Hope discussed an advocate’s duty to the court: ‘it is necessary to appreciate the extent of that duty and the extent to which the efficiency of our systems of criminal justice depends on it. The advocate’s duty to the court is not just that he must not mislead the court, that he must ensure that the facts are presented fairly and that he must draw the attention of the court to the relevant authorities even if they are against him. It extends to the whole way in which the client’s case is presented, so that time is not wasted and the court is able to focus on the issues as efficiently and economically as possible.’
Lord Hoffmann set out two policies which underlie discouragement of relitigation: ‘The law discourages relitigation of the same issues except by means of an appeal. The Latin maxims often quoted are nemo debet bis vexari pro una et eadem causa and interest rei publicae ut finis sit litium. They are usually mentioned in tandem but it is important to notice that the policies they state are not quite the same. The first is concerned with the interests of the defendant: a person should not be troubled twice for the same reason. This policy has generated the rules which prevent relitigation when the parties are the same: autrefois acquit, res judicata and issue estoppel. The second policy is wider: it is concerned with the interests of the state. There is a general public interest in the same issue not being litigated over again. The second policy can be used to justify the extension of the rules of issue estoppel to cases in which the parties are not the same but the circumstances are such as to bring the case within the spirit of the rules.’
Lord Browne-Wilkinson, Lord Steyn, Lord Hoffmann Lord Hope of Craighead Lord Hutton, Lord Hobhouse of Woodborough, Lord Millett
Gazette 17-Aug-2000, Times 21-Jul-2000,  UKHL 38,  3 All ER 673,  3 WLR 543,  2 FLR 545,  Fam Law 806,  1 AC 615
House of Lords, Bailii
Courts and Legal Services Act 1990 62
England and Wales
Overruled – Rondel v Worsley HL 1967
Need for Advocate’s Immunity from Negligence
The appellant had obtained the services of the respondent barrister to defend him on a dock brief, and alleged that the respondent had been negligent in the conduct of his defence.
Held: The House considered the immunity from suit of . .
Appeal from – Arthur J S Hall and Co (A Firm) v Simons etc CA 14-Dec-1998
The court considered the limits on liability for professional negligence for lawyers in conduct associated with litigation, but outside the courtroom.
Held: Though the court must balance the need for protection against negligence by lawyers . .
Cited – Hedley Byrne and Co Ltd v Heller and Partners Ltd HL 28-May-1963
Banker’s Liability for Negligent Reference
The appellants were advertising agents. They were liable themselves for advertising space taken for a client, and had sought a financial reference from the defendant bankers to the client. The reference was negligent, but the bankers denied any . .
Cited – Elguzouli-Daf v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis and Another CA 16-Nov-1994
The Court upheld decisions striking out actions for negligence brought by claimants who had been arrested and held in custody during criminal investigations which were later discontinued. The Crown Prosecution Service owes no general duty of care to . .
Cited – Smith v Linskills CA 1996
The claimant, a convicted burglar took proceedings against his former solicitors. He alleged that the negligence of the solicitor caused his wrongful conviction.
Held: The case was dismissed. The claimant was seeking to re-litigate issues . .
Cited – Hunter v Chief Constable of the West Midlands Police HL 19-Nov-1981
No collateral attack on Jury findigs.
An attempt was made to open up in a civil action, allegations of assaults by the police prior to the making of confessions which had been disposed of in a voir dire in the course of a criminal trial. The plaintiffs had imprisoned having spent many . .
Cited – Commissioners of Customs and Excise v Barclays Bank Plc ComC 3-Feb-2004
The claimant had obtained orders against two companies who banked with the respondent. Asset freezing orders were served on the bank, but within a short time the customer used the bank’s Faxpay national service to transfer substantial sums outside . .
Cited – Heath v Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis CA 20-Jul-2004
The female civilian officer alleged sex discrimination against her by a police officer. Her complaint was heard at an internal disciplinary. She alleged sexual harrassment, and was further humiliated by the all male board’s treatment of her . .
Cited – Moy v Pettman Smith (a firm) and another HL 3-Feb-2005
Damages were claimed against a barrister for advice on a settlement given at the door of the court. After substantial litigation, made considerably more difficult by the negligence of the solicitors, the barrister had not advised the claimant at the . .
Cited – National Westminster Bank plc v Spectrum Plus Limited and others HL 30-Jun-2005
Former HL decision in Siebe Gorman overruled
The company had become insolvent. The bank had a debenture and claimed that its charge over the book debts had become a fixed charge. The preferential creditors said that the charge was a floating charge and that they took priority.
Held: The . .
Cited – Laing v Taylor Walton (A Firm) QBD 20-Feb-2007
The claimant sought to pursue an action for professional negligence against his solicitors. They said that the action was an abuse being an attempted relitigation of matters already settled when a judge had decided that the defendants had not owed a . .
Cited – Awoyomi v Radford and Another QBD 12-Jul-2007
The claimant sought damages from the defendant barristers who had represented her in criminal proceedings. They had not passed on to her the statement made by the judge in chambers that if she pleaded guilty he would not impose a sentence of . .
Cited – McFaddens (A Firm) v Platford TCC 30-Jan-2009
The claimant firm of solicitors had been found negligent, and now sought a contribution to the damages awarded from the barrister defendant. They had not managed properly issues as to their clients competence to handle the proceedings.
Held: . .
Cited – Halsey v Milton Keynes General NHS Trust etc CA 11-May-2004
The court considered the effect on costs orders of a refusal to take part in alternate dispute resolution procedures. The defendant Trust had refused to take the dispute to a mediation. In neither case had the court ordered or recommended ADR.
Cited – Council of The City of Newcastle Upon Tyne v Marsden (Rev 1) EAT 23-Jan-2010
EAT PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE – Review
Claim under Disability Discrimination Act 1995 dismissed at PHR because Claimant not available to give evidence as to long-term effect of injury – Judge willing to offer . .
Cited – Jones v Kaney SC 30-Mar-2011
An expert witness admitted signing a joint report but without agreeing to it. The claimant who had lost his case now pursued her in negligence. The claimant appealed against a finding that the expert witness was immune from action.
Held: The . .
Cited – Lumsdon and Others, Regina (on The Application of) v Legal Services Board Admn 20-Jan-2014
Four barristers challenged, by a judicial review, a decision by which the LSB approved an application proposed by the BSB jointly with two other approved regulators, the SRA and IPS, to introduce the Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates . .
Cited – Singh v Moorlands Primary School and Another CA 25-Jul-2013
The claimant was a non-white head teacher, alleging that her school governors and local authority had undermined and had ‘deliberately endorsed a targeted campaign of discrimination, bullying, harassment and victimisation’ against her as an Asian . .
Cited – Michael Wilson and Partners Ltd v Sinclair and Another CA 13-Jan-2017
The appellant company sought to recover assets which, it said, had been acquired by a former partner in breach of his obligations under the partnership agreement, but which had been taken in the names of some of the respondents. There had been an . .
Cited – Michael Wilson and Partners Ltd v Sinclair and Others ComC 21-Sep-2012
The claimant company alleged that the defendants had variously received assests (shares and cash) acquired by a former partner in the claimant company and held on his behalf, in breach of his obligations to the caimant partnership. The defendants . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Professional Negligence, Legal Professions
Updated: 31 October 2021; Ref: scu.77880