Corner House Research and Others, Regina (on the Application of) v The Serious Fraud Office: HL 30 Jul 2008

SFO Director’s decisions reviewable

The director succeeded on his appeal against an order declaring unlawful his decision to discontinue investigations into allegations of bribery. The Attorney-General had supervisory duties as to the exercise of the duties by the Director. It had become clear that a continued investigation would threaten co-operation between the UK and Saudi Arabia.
Held: The Director’s decision was one he was lawfully entitled to make, and his appeal succeeded. He was entitled to take into account the risks to British lives which might follow such an action and the withdrawal of co-operation by Saudi. The decisions of the Director were susceptible to judicial review.
Lord Bingham said that the reasons why the courts are very slow to interfere are well understood: first, that the powers in question are entrusted to the officers identified and to no-one else, and no other authority may exercise the powers or make the judgments on which such exercise must depend; secondly, that the courts have recognised the polycentric character of official decision-making in such matters; and, thirdly, that the powers are conferred in very broad and unprescriptive terms.
It is inappropriate for courts to purport to decide whether or not the Executive has correctly understood an unincorporated treaty obligation: ‘Whether, in the event that there had been a live dispute on the meaning of an unincorporated provision on which there was no judicial authority, the courts would or should have undertaken the task of interpretation from scratch must be at least questionable. It would moreover be unfortunate if decision-makers were to be deterred from seeking to give effect to what they understand to be the international obligations of the United Kingdom by fear that their decisions might be held to be vitiated by an incorrect understanding.’
Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood said: ‘It simply cannot be the law that, provided only a public officer asserts that his decision accords with the state’s international obligations, the courts will entertain a challenge to the decision based upon his arguable misunderstanding of that obligation and then itself decide the point of international law at issue.’

Lord Bingham of Cornhill, Lord Hoffmann, Lord Rodger of Earlsferry, Baroness Hale of Richmond, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood
[2008] UKHL 60, Times 31-Jul-2008, [2008] 3 WLR 568, [2009] Crim LR 46, [2008] Lloyd’s Rep FC 537, [2008] 4 All ER 927, [2009] 1 AC 756
Bailii, HL
Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, Criminal Justice Act 1987 1(3) 1(5), Constitutional Reform Act 2005 81
England and Wales
See AlsoCorner House Research, Regina (on the Application of) v Director of the Serious Fraud Office Admn 17-Jan-2008
The court considered interlocutory matters in the forthcoming application for judicial review of the respondent’s decision not to proceed with an investigation of allegations of bribery under the 2001 Act. . .
See AlsoCorner House Research and Another, Regina (on the Application of) v Director of Serious Fraud Office and Another Admn 4-Feb-2008
The applicant sought judicial review of the decision by the Director to halt the investigation of alleged payment of bribes by a British defence company to members of the Saudi Royal family, which would be an offence under the 2001 Act.
Held: . .
Appeal fromCorner House Research and Campaign Against Arms Trade, Regina (on the Application of) v Director of the Serious Fraud Office and Another Admn 10-Apr-2008
The defendant had had responsibility to investigate and if necessary prosecute a company suspected of serious offences of bribery and corruption in the conduct of contract negotiations. The investigation had been stopped, alledgedly at the . .
CitedRegina v Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall, Ex parte Central Electricity Generating Board CA 1982
The CEGB wanted to undertake a survey using its statutory powers to check whether land might be suitable for a nuclear power station, and wanted the police to prevent demonstrators from preventing the survey. It now requested an order of mandamus to . .
CitedC (A Minor) v Director of Public Prosecutions HL 17-Mar-1995
The House considered whether the long established rule of the criminal law presuming that a child did not have a guilty mind should be set aside.
Held: Doli incapax, the presumption of a child’s lack of mens rea, is still effective and good . .
CitedRegina v The Director of Public Prosecutions, Ex Parte Manning, Ex Parte Melbourne QBD 17-May-2000
The applicants sought judicial review of the decision of the Director not to prosecute anybody after the death of their brother in prison custody, and while under restraint by prison officers. The jury at a coroner’s inquest had returned a verdict . .
CitedBermingham and others v The Director of the Serious Fraud Office QBD 21-Feb-2006
Prosecution to protect defendant not available
The claimants faced extradition to the US. They said that the respondent had infringed their human rights by deciding not to prosecute them in the UK. There was no mutuality in the Act under which they were to be extradited.
Held: The Director . .
CitedMohit v The Director of Public Prosecutions of Mauritius PC 25-Apr-2006
(Mauritius) The board was asked whether the decision of the Director to discontinue a private prosecution was a decision capable of review by the courts under the constitution of Mauritius. . .
CitedSharma v Brown-Antoine, Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions and others PC 30-Nov-2006
(Trinidad and Tobago) Complaint was made as to a decision to begin professional discliplinary proceedings against a senior member of the judiciary.
Held: Although a decision to prosecute was in principle susceptible to judicial review on the . .
CitedRegina v Secretary of State For The Home Department, Ex Parte Launder HL 13-Mar-1997
The question arose as to whether or not the decision of the Secretary of State to extradite the applicant to Hong Kong would have amounted to a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. Although the Convention was not at that time in force . .
CitedMatalulu v Director of Public Prosecutions 2003
(Supreme Court of Fiji) The court considered the nature of judicial control (if any) over decisions by authorities to commence prosecutions and said: ‘the polycentric character of official decision-making in such matters including policy and public . .
CitedRegina (Holding and Barnes plc) v Secretary of State for Environment Transport and the Regions; Regina (Alconbury Developments Ltd and Others) v Same and Others HL 9-May-2001
Power to call in is administrative in nature
The powers of the Secretary of State to call in a planning application for his decision, and certain other planning powers, were essentially an administrative power, and not a judicial one, and therefore it was not a breach of the applicants’ rights . .
CitedRegina v Director of Public Prosecutions, ex parte Kebilene and others HL 28-Oct-1999
(Orse Kebeline) The DPP’s appeal succeeded. A decision by the DPP to authorise a prosecution could not be judicially reviewed unless dishonesty, bad faith, or some other exceptional circumstance could be shown. A suggestion that the offence for . .
CitedRegina v Chief Constable of Sussex, ex Parte International Trader’s Ferry Limited HL 2-Apr-1998
Chief Constable has a Wide Discretion on Resources
Protesters sought to prevent the appellant’s lawful trade exporting live animals. The police provided assistance, but then restricted it, pleading lack of resources. The appellants complained that this infringed their freedom of exports under . .
CitedRegina v Coventry Airport Ex Parte Phoenix Aviation; Regina v Dover Harbour Board Ex Parte Gilder Admn 12-Apr-1995
A local authority operator of an airport suspended flights on aircraft transporting livestock; a harbour authority refused to allow cross-Channel services for the export of live animals; and a local authority challenged the decision of a statutory . .
CitedRegina v Chief Constable of Sussex, Ex Parte International Trader’s Ferry Ltd QBD 28-Jul-1995
A Chief Constable may not limit his duty to his immediate community if this interfered with lawful exports within the community. It was for the Chief Constable to decide on the disposition of his forces and the use of his resources. He was fully . .
CitedRegina v Secretary of State for the Home Department and Another, Ex Parte Finninvest Spa and Others QBD 23-Oct-1996
The referral of an approach from the Italian authorities for help to the Serious Fraud Office was not wrong. Where assistance is being given to an authority abroad in relation to an on-going investigation both the letter of request and the draft . .
CitedCampaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) v Prime Minister and others Admn 17-Dec-2002
CND sought an advisory declaration as to the meaning of UN Security Council resolution 1441, which had given Iraq ‘a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations’ and whether the resolution authorised states to take military action . .
CitedGentle, Regina (on the Application of) and Another v The Prime Minister and Another HL 9-Apr-2008
The appellants were mothers of two servicemen who had died whilst on active service in Iraq. They appealed refusal to grant a public inquiry. There had already been coroners inquests. They said that Article 2 had been infringed.
Held: The . .

Cited by:
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 . .
CitedGujra, Regina (on The Application of) v Crown Prosecution Service Admn 9-Mar-2011
The claimant sought judicial review of a decision of the respondent to take over and discontinue his private prosecutions arising from public order incidents, saying that the respondent’s policy was unlawful in restricting such prosecutions.
CitedE and Others, Regina (on The Application of) v The Director of Public Prosecutions Admn 10-Jun-2011
Judicial review was sought of a decision by the respondent to prosecute a child for her alleged sexual abuse of her younger sisters. Agencies other than the police and CPS considered that a prosecution would harm both the applicant and her sisters. . .
CitedLord Carlile and Others v Secretary of State for The Home Department Admn 16-Mar-2012
The claimant had invited an Iranian dissident to speak in Parliament, and now challenged the decision of the Home Secretary to refuse her a visa on the basis that her exclusion was not conducive to the public good. She was a member of an . .
CitedLord Carlile of Berriew QC, and Others, Regina (on The Application of) v Secretary of State for The Home Department SC 12-Nov-2014
The claimant had supported the grant of a visa to a woman in order to speak to members of Parliament who was de facto leader of an Iranian organsation which had in the past supported terrorism and had been proscribed in the UK, but that proscription . .
CitedSG and Others, Regina (on The Application of) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions SC 18-Mar-2015
The court was asked whether it was lawful for the Secretary of State to make subordinate legislation imposing a cap on the amount of welfare benefits which can be received by claimants in non-working households, equivalent to the net median earnings . .
CitedMonica, Regina (on The Application of) v Director of Public Prosecutions Admn 14-Dec-2018
Deception as to identity did not undermine consent
The claimant had been an environmental campaigner. She had had a sexual relationship with a man who was unknown to her an undercover police officer. She now challenged the decision not to prosecute him for rape.
Held: Her claim failed. Case . .
CitedTigere, Regina (on The Application of) v Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills SC 29-Jul-2015
After increasing university fees, the student loan system was part funded by the government. They introduced limits to the availability of such loans, and a student must have been lawfully ordinarily resident in the UK for three years before the day . .
CitedJJ Management Consulting Llp and Others v Revenue and Customs CA 22-Jun-2020
HMRC has power to conduct informal investigation
The taxpayer, resident here, but with substantial oversea business interests, challenged the conduct of an informal investigation of his businesses under the 2005 Act, saying that HMRC, as a creature of statute, are only permitted to do that which . .
CitedBelhaj and Another v Director of Public Prosecutions and Another SC 4-Jul-2018
Challenge to decision not to prosecute senior Intelligence Service officials for alleged offences in connection with his unlawful rendition and mistreatment in Libya. The issue here was whether on the hearing of the application for judicial review, . .
CitedBashir and Others, Regina (on The Application of) v Secretary of State for The Home Department SC 30-Jul-2018
(Interim Judgment) The respondent asylum seekers had been rescued in the Mediterranean and taken to an RAF base in Akrotiri on Cyprus, a sovereign base area. The court was now asked whether they were entitled, or should be permitted, to be resettled . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Constitutional, Criminal Practice

Leading Case

Updated: 01 November 2021; Ref: scu.271273