British Coal Corporation v The King: PC 1935

The Board was asked as to the competency of a petition for special leave to appeal to the King in Council from a judgment of a court in Quebec in a criminal matter. The petitioners argued that notwithstanding the provisions of a Canadian statute which prohibited such appeals, this class of appeal was external to Canada, so that the Canadian legislature had no power to make provision affecting it.
Held: The Canadian legislature had power to prohibit appeals to the King in Council in criminal matters and that the petition before it was therefore incompetent.
It was to the King that any subject who had failed to get justice in the King’s Court brought his petition for redress, a petition brought to the King in Parliament or to the King in his Chancery.
Viscount Sankey LC set out the historical background of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. Its origins lay in the procedure whereby a party aggrieved by a decision of the Courts of the Channel Islands (and, later, by a decision of the Courts of the Plantations and Colonies) might petition the King in Council to exercise in his favour the sovereign’s royal prerogative as the fountain of justice. In a domestic context such petitions were brought to the King in Parliament (being the origin of the judicial functions of the House of Lords which are soon to be abolished) or to the King in Chancery (from which flowed the jurisdiction of the Court of Chancery).
The procedure for petitioning the King in Council had become loosely described as an appeal by the time the Judicial Committee Act 1833 was enacted. That Act created the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council as a statutory body. It provided that ‘all appeals or complaints in the nature of appeals whatever’ which had previously been brought before His Majesty in Council would now be referred by His Majesty to the Judicial Committee. Although the powers of the committee were limited to making a report or recommendations to His Majesty in Council, Viscount Sankey said that according to constitutional convention it was unknown and unthinkable that His Majesty in Council should not give effect to the report of the Judicial Committee ‘who are thus in truth an appellate court of law’.
Viscount Sankey LC said: ‘Parliament could, as a matter of abstract law, repeal or disregard section 4 of the Statute. But that is theory and has no relation to realities.’ and ‘It is doubtless true that the power of the Imperial Parliament to pass on its own initiative any legislation that it thought fit extending to Canada remains in theory unimpaired: indeed, the Imperial Parliament could, as a matter of abstract law, repeal or disregard s. 4 of the Statute.’

Viscount Sankey LC
[1935] AC 500, [1935] All ER Rep 139, [1935] UKPC 33
Statute of Westminster 1931 4
Cited by:
CitedThe Attorney General for St Christopher and Nevis v Rodionov PC 20-Jul-2004
(St. Christopher and Nevis) The government of Canada requested the extradition of the respondent. The Attorney General sought special leave to appeal against the order for his discharge from custody, which had been on the grounds of the prejudice . .
CitedManuel and Others v Attorney-General; Noltcho and Others v Attorney-General ChD 7-May-1982
The plaintiffs were Indian Chiefs from Canada. They complained that the 1982 Act which granted independence to Canada, had been passed without their consent, which they said was required. They feared the loss of rights embedded by historical . .
CitedManuel and Others v HM Attorney General CA 30-Jul-1982
The plaintiffs as representatives of the Indian Tribes of Canada sought declarations that the 1982 Act which provided for the independence of Canada was invalid. They appealed the strike out of their claims, saying that they had not been consulted . .
CitedDavid Grant v Director of Correctional Services and Another; The Director of Public Prosecutions PC 14-Jun-2004
(Jamaica) The defendant had pleaded guilty to drugs offences in the US, and had fled to Jamaica. He appealed against a refusal of Habeas Corpus having been arrested and held for extradition. The Board considered its jurisdiction to hear such an . .
CitedSeaga v Harper (No 2) PC 29-Jun-2009
No conditional fees without country approval
(Jamaica) Jamaican domestic law did not allow conditional fees or for the recovery of an after the event insurance premium for costs. When the case was appealed to the Board, his English solicitors represented him under a conditional fee agreement . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Leading Case

Updated: 01 November 2021; Ref: scu.199435