Conway v Rimmer: HL 28 Feb 1968

Crown Privilege for Documents held by the Polie

The plaintiff probationary police constable had been investigated, prosecuted and cleared of an allegation of theft. He now claimed damages for malicious prosecution, and in the course of the action, sought disclosure of five documents, but these were withheld on the ground of Crown privilege. The House considered that claim as to civil actions of documents and information in the hands of the police.
Held: The courts will give great weight to preserving the confidentiality of tax documents in the hands of the Revenue.
Lord Reid said: ‘The police are carrying on an unending war with criminals many of whom are today highly intelligent. So it is essential that there should be no disclosure of anything which might give any useful information to those who organise criminal activities.’ However: ‘I would therefore propose that the House ought now to decide that courts have and are entitled to exercise a power and duty to hold a balance between the public interest, as expressed by a Minister, to withhold certain documents or other evidence, and the public interest in ensuring the proper administration of justice. That does not mean that a court would reject a Minister’s view: full weight must be given to it in every case, and if the Minister’s reasons are of a character which judicial experience is not competent to weigh, then the Minister’s view must prevail. But experience has shown that reasons given for withholding whole classes of documents are often not of that character. For example a court is perfectly well able to assess the likelihood that, if the writer of a certain class of document knew that there was a chance that his report might be produced in legal proceedings, he would make a less full and candid report than he would otherwise have done. I do not doubt that there are certain classes of documents which ought not to be disclosed whatever their content may be. Virtually everyone agrees that Cabinet minutes and the like ought not to be disclosed until such time as they are only of historical interest. But I do not think that many people would give as the reason that premature disclosure would prevent candour in the Cabinet. To my mind the most important reason is that such disclosure would create or fan ill-informed or captious public or political criticism.’
As to the different positions of the law in Scotland and England, Lord Reid said: ‘But here we are dealing purely with public policy – with the proper relation between the powers of the executive and the powers of the courts – and I can see no rational justification for the law on this matter being different in the two countries.’

Lord Reid Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest, Lord Hodson, Lord Pearce, Lord Upjohn
[1968] AC 910, [1968] 2 WLR 998, [1968] 1 All ER 874, [1968] UKHL 2
England and Wales
CitedDuncan v Cammell, Laird and Company Limited (Discovery) HL 27-Apr-1942
Relatives of deceased seamen claimed damages against the defendants after their husbands were lost a sea in a submarine built by the defendants. The Ministry of Defence instructed the defendants not to disclose any details of the boat’s . .
CitedMackalley’s case 1611
If an officer or magistrate is killed when executing a process or preserving the peace, the offence is murder and remains so even if there is some defect in the process being executed, or the arrest was being made at night.
Constables were . .
CitedFisher v Oldham Corporation KBD 1930
On Officer was subject to a claim for false imprisonment on an unlawful arrest, and it was asserted that the Watch Committee of the local authority were vicariously liable. The plaintiff pointed to his Oath of Office: ‘I . . . . . . . . . of . . . . . .

Cited by:
CitedLonrho Plc v Fayed and Others (No 4 ) CA 27-Oct-1993
Public interest immunity does not attach to documents in the hands of a taxpayer and his advisers. They are not in any event discloseable. (Bingham) ‘a claim made by the revenue to withhold documents relating to a taxpayer’s tax affairs from . .
CitedHome Office v Hariette Harman HL 11-Feb-1982
The defendant had permitted a journalist to see documents revealed to her as in her capacity as a solicitor in the course of proceedings.
Held: The documents were disclosed under an obligation to use them for the instant case only. That rule . .
CitedReclaiming Motion In Petition of Scott Davidson for Judicial Review of A Decision To Continue To Detain the Prisoner In Inhuman and Degrading Prison C SCS 18-Dec-2001
A prisoner sought an order for his removal from a prison found to have a regime which breached his human rights. The Crown replied that an order could not be made under s21 of the 1947 Act.
Held: The prisoner had followed through his rights to . .
CitedMohamed, Regina (on the Application of) v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (No 4) Admn 4-Feb-2009
In an earlier judgment, redactions had been made relating to reports by the US government of its treatment of the claimant when held by them at Guantanamo bay. The claimant said he had been tortured and sought the documents to support his defence of . .
CitedAl Rawi and Others v The Security Service and Others QBD 18-Nov-2009
The claimants sought damages from the defendants saying that they had been held and ill treated at various detention centres by foreign authorities, but with the involvement of the defendants. The defendants sought to bring evidence before the court . .
CitedAl Rawi and Others v The Security Service and Others CA 4-May-2010
Each claimant had been captured and mistreated by the US government, and claimed the involvement in and responsibility for that mistreatment by the respondents. The court was asked whether a court in England and Wales, in the absence of statutory . .
CitedRegina v Inland Revenue Commissioners ex parte Rossminster Ltd HL 13-Dec-1979
The House considered the power of an officer of the Board of Inland Revenue to seize and remove materials found on premises which a warrant obtained on application to the Common Serjeant authorised him to enter and search; but where the source of . .
CitedScience Research Council v Nasse; BL Cars Ltd (formerly Leyland Cars) v Voias HL 1-Nov-1979
Recent statutes had given redress to anyone suffering unlawful discrimination on account of race sex or trade union activities. An employee sought discovery of documents from his employer which might reveal such discrimination.
Held: The court . .
CitedAl Rawi and Others v The Security Service and Others SC 13-Jul-2011
The claimant pursued a civil claim for damages, alleging complicity of the respondent in his torture whilst in the custody of foreign powers. The respondent sought that certain materials be available to the court alone and not to the claimant or the . .
CitedArias and Others v Commissioner for the Metropolitan Police and Another CA 1-Aug-1984
A police officer searched premises under a warrant seizing documents of a trust corporation managed by the occupier. The trustees sought return of the documents or, alternatively, copies of them. The police believed that the documents were evidence . .
CitedAndrew v News Group Newspapers Ltd and Commissioner of the Police for the Metropolis ChD 18-Mar-2011
The claimant sought unredacted disclosure of documents by the second defendant so that he could pursue an action against the first, who, he said, were thought to have intercepted his mobile phone messages, and where the second defendant had . .
CitedIn re A (A Child) SC 12-Dec-2012
A woman, X, had made an allegation in confidence she had been sexually assaulted as a child. The court was asked whether that confidence could be overriden to allow an investigation to protect if necessary a child still living with the man. Evidence . .
CitedRegina v Lewes Justices ex parte Secretary of State for the Home Department; Rogers v Home Secretary HL 1972
The House considered a claim for public interest immunity.
Held: Lord Simon of Glaisdale said: ‘the public interest which demands that the evidence be withheld has to be weighed against the public interest in the administration of justice that . .
CitedHaralambous, Regina (on The Application of) v Crown Court at St Albans and Another SC 24-Jan-2018
The appellant challenged by review the use of closed material first in the issue of a search warrant, and subsequently to justify the retention of materials removed during the search.
Held: The appeal failed. No express statutory justification . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Taxes Management, Constitutional, Police, Litigation Practice

Leading Case

Updated: 31 October 2021; Ref: scu.184570