Attorney-General for the United Kingdom v Heinemann Publishers Australia Pty Ltd: 1988

(High Court of Australia) The A-G sought to prevent publication in Australia of the book Spycatcher, saying that it had been written by a former member of the British intelligence service and that it was derived from confidential material.
Held: The court should not enforce foreign public laws, in so much as it would not allow enforcement outside the territory of the foreign sovereign of claims based on or related to the exercise of foreign governmental power. Though it was difficult to identify the foreign laws or rights which fell within the general principle, the majority suggested that, rather than refer to ‘public laws’, it would be more apt to refer to ‘public interests’ or ‘governmental interests’ that is to claims enforcing the interests of a foreign sovereign which arise from the exercise of certain powers peculiar to government. This claim for relief ‘arises out of, and is secured by, an exercise of a prerogative of the Crown, that exercise being the maintenance of the national security. Therefore the right or interest asserted in the proceedings is to be classified as a governmental interest. As such, the action falls within the rule of international law which renders the claim unenforceable’.


(1988) 165 CLR 30



Cited by:

CitedMbasogo, President of the State of Equatorial Guinea and Another v Logo Ltd and others CA 23-Oct-2006
Foreign Public Law Not Enforceable Here
The claimant alleged a conspiracy by the defendants for his overthrow by means of a private coup d’etat. The defendants denied that the court had jurisdiction. The claimants appealed dismissal of their claim to damages.
Held: The claims were . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Updated: 07 May 2022; Ref: scu.245577