Grant v Borg: HL 1982

The defendant was convicted of the offence of overstaying the time given by his leave to enter the UK. He had made assorted applications for extended leave but they had been rejected. His conviction was overturned by the Divisional Court and remitted to the magistrates for them to determine whether he first became aware of the date of expiry of his leave before the alleged offences.
Held: The defendant’s appeal succeeded. Ignorance of a fact necessary to conviction may be a defence, but ignorance of the law was not. If information about the law is accessible, a defendant is deemed to know of it.
Nevertheless, the offence was only committed on the days after the leave had expired. If at that time he was ignorant of some necessary fact, the later acquisition of the knowledge of that fact could not be used to make him guilty on an eralier date. In this case the prosecution, based upon that calculation was out of time under section 28(1).
Lord Bridge said: ‘First, the principle that ignorance of the law is no defence in crime is so fundamental that to construe the word ‘knowingly’ in a criminal statute as requiring not merely knowledge of the facts material to the offender’s guilt, but also knowledge of the relevant law, would be revolutionary and to my mind, wholly unacceptable. I reserve my opinion as to whether the courts might nevertheless be driven to that extremity if a statutory offence embodying a requirement of knowledge in the definition of the offence were of such a nature that it was impossible to envisage circumstances in which the facts necessary to establish the offender’s guilt would not be known to him. But that is certainly not this case.’

Lord Bridge of Harwich
[1982] 1 WLR 638, [1982] 2 All ER 257
Immigration Act 1971 24(1)(b) 28(1)
England and Wales
Cited by:
CitedChristian and others v The Queen PC 30-Oct-2006
(The Pitcairn Islands) The defendants appealed convictions for assorted sexual offences against underage girls. They denied that the laws under which they were convicted had applied to the Pitcairn Islands.
Held: The appeals against conviction . .

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Criminal Practice

Leading Case

Updated: 01 November 2021; Ref: scu.245769