Curtis v Perry: 10 Mar 1802

Fraudulent Registrations Ineffective

Ships had been purchased by a partnership, but were then held separately in the name of one of them. Only later were they included within the partnership accounts, but the separate registrations were maintained, and unlawfully so as to avoid them being traced. The other partner had been a member of parliament, and would have been penalised if he had been party to transactions with the government. On his death, his estate claimed an interest in the ships.
Held: The plaintiff failed to recover. Equity will assist neither party to an illegal transaction.
Lord Eldon said: ‘The reason for waiving any right Chiswell had in consequence of the manner, in which Nantes made this purchase, the object of keeping the ships registered in the name of Nantes, was, that a profit might be made by the employment of them in contracts with Government; and Chiswell was a Member of Parliament; who, the law says , shall not be a contractor. The moment the purpose to defeat the policy of the law by fraudulently concealing, that this was his property, is admitted, it is very clear, he ought not to be heard in this Court to say, that is his property.’

Lord Eldon
(1802) 6 Ves 739, [1802] EngR 125, (1802) 6 Ves Jun 739, (1802) 31 ER 1285
England and Wales
Cited by:
CitedBowmakers Ltd v Barnet Instruments Ltd CA 1945
An action was brought for the wrongful conversion of machine tools delivered under hire purchase agreements which contravened wartime statutory orders. The plaintiff established its legal title to the goods at issue without relying upon the illegal . .
CitedTinsley v Milligan HL 28-Jun-1993
Two women parties used funds generated by a joint business venture to buy a house in which they lived together. It was vested in the sole name of the plaintiff but on the understanding that they were joint beneficial owners. The purpose of the . .
CitedCostello v Chief Constable of Derbyshire Constabulary CA 22-Mar-2001
The police seized a car from Mr Costello, believing that it was stolen. The seizure was lawful at the time, by virtue of section 19 of PACE. The police never brought any criminal proceedings against Mr Costello, but they refused to return the car to . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Leading Case

Updated: 10 November 2021; Ref: scu.194099