Gray v Thames Trains and Others: HL 17 Jun 2009

The claimant suffered psychiatric injury in a rail crash caused by the defendant’s negligence. Under this condition of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, the claimant had later gone on to kill another person, and he had been detained under section 41. He now sought damages for his loss of earnings through detention in prison and mental hospital.
Held: Such damages could not be claimed successfully once the claimant had been convicted. Though the defendants had admitted their negligence, success for the claimant would be against the public policy maxim that ex turpi causa non oritur actio. If the case was extreme, and the order for detention was made purely for the defendant’s mental condition, and not for the criminal behaviour, the maxim might not apply, but that was not the case here.
Lord Hoffmann said: ‘there is no dispute that there was a causal connection between the tort and the killing. The evidence which the judge accepted was but for the tort, Mr Gray would not have killed. But the rule of public policy invoked in this case is not based upon some primitive psychology which deems mental stress to be incapable of having a connection with subsequent criminal acts . . the case against compensating Mr Gray for his loss of liberty is based upon the inconsistency of requiring someone to be compensated for a sentence imposed because of his own personal responsibility for a criminal act.’ and ‘the maxim ex turpi causa expresses not so much a principle as a policy. Furthermore, that policy is not based upon a single justification but on a group of reasons, which vary in different situations.’
Lord Brown said: ‘The law cannot at one and the same time incarcerate someone for his criminality and compensate him civilly for the financial consequences.’


Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, Lord Hoffmann, Lord Scott of Foscote, Lord Rodger of Earlsferry, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood


[2009] UKHL 33, Times 19-Jun-2009, [2009] PIQR P22, (2009) 108 BMLR 205, [2009] 4 All ER 81, [2009] 3 WLR 167, [2009] 1 AC 1339




Mental Health Act 1983 37 41


England and Wales


CitedClunis (By his Next Friend Prince) v Camden and Islington Health Authority CA 5-Dec-1997
The plaintiff had killed someone and, as a result, been convicted of manslaughter and ordered to be detained in a secure hospital when subject to after-care under section 117 of the 1983 Act. He sought damages from the health authority on the basis . .
CitedRegina v Drew HL 8-May-2003
The defendant was mentally ill. He had been convicted of a second serious offence, and now appealed the life sentence imposed. Psychiatrists had recommended a hospital order, but such an order could not now be made by virtue of the 2000 Act save in . .
Appeal fromGray v Thames Trains Ltd and Another CA 25-Jun-2008
The claimant was a victim of the Ladbroke Grove rail crash. He later committed and was convicted of a manslaughter and detained under the 1983 Act. He said that the accident had caused a major personality change. The defendant relied on the defence . .
CitedRegina v Birch CACD 1989
Even where there is culpability, a hospital order with a restriction order may well be the appropriate way to deal with a dangerous and disordered person.
Mustill LJ discussed the effect of a restriction order: ‘In marked contrast with the . .
CitedRegina v Eaton CACD 1976
A hospital order with a restriction order unlimited as to time was made in respect of a woman with a psychopathic disorder where her offence was minor criminal damage. . .
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 . .
CitedHolman v Johnson 5-Jul-1775
ex turpi causa non oritur actio
A claim was made for the price of goods which the plaintiff sold to the defendant in Dunkirk, knowing that the defendant’s purpose was to smuggle the goods into England. The plaintiff was met with a defence of illegality.
Held: The defence . .
CitedAskey v Golden Wine Co Ltd 1948
Denning J said: ‘It is, I think, a principle of our law that the punishment inflicted by a criminal court is personal to the offender, and that the civil courts will not entertain an action by the offender to recover an indemnity against the . .
CitedNational Coal Board v England HL 1954
The plaintiff sought damages after being injured when a co-worker fired a shot. The employee however had himself coupled the detonator to the cable rather than leaving it to the shotfirer, and had his cimmitted a criminal offence. He had been found . .
CitedChapman v Hearse, Baker v Willoughby HL 26-Nov-1969
The plaintiff, a pedestrian had been struck by the defendant’s car while crossing the road. The plaintiff had negligently failed to see the defendant’s car approaching. The defendant had a clear view of the plaintiff prior to the collision, but was . .
CitedBritish Columbia v Zastowny 8-Feb-2008
Canlii (Supreme Court of Canada) Damages – Past and future wage loss – Periods of incarceration – Plaintiff seeking damages for injuries suffered as consequence of sexual assaults – Whether plaintiff entitled to . .
CitedHunter Area Health Service v Presland 21-Apr-2005
(Supreme Court of New South Wales – Court of Appeal) The plaintiff, who had been negligently discharged from a psychiatric hospital, was acquitted of murdering a woman six hours later on the ground of mental illness but ordered to be detained in . .
CitedJobling v Associated Dairies HL 1980
The claimant suffered an accident at work which left him with continuing disabling back pain. Before the trial of his claim he was diagnosed as suffering from a disease, in no way connected with the accident, which would in any event have wholly . .
CitedMeah v McCreamer (No 1) QBD 1985
The claimant had suffered serious brain damage as a result of the defendant’s negligence, resulting in a personality change which caused him to commit offences for which he was imprisoned. He sought damages for that imprisonment.
Held: Woolf J . .
CitedMeah v McCreamer (No 2) 1986
The court rejected an attempt to recover the damages which the plaintiff had been found liable to pay to two women whom he had subjected to criminal attacks. The damages were too remote. But the claim would also have been rejected on the public . .
CitedVellino v Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police CA 31-Jul-2001
The police were not under any duty to protect someone who had been arrested from injuring himself in an attempt to escape. The claimant had a history of seeking to avoid capture by jumping from his flat window. On this occasion he injured himself in . .
CitedState Rail Authority of New South Wales v Wiegold 1991
(New South Wales) The plaintiff was seriously injured in an industrial accident caused by the defendant’s negligence. At first he received payments of worker’s compensation but when these ceased he took to supplementing his income by growing and . .
CitedRahman v Arearose Limited and Another, University College London, NHS Trust CA 15-Jun-2000
The claimant had suffered a vicious physical assault from which the claimant’s employers should have protected him, and an incompetently performed surgical operation. Three psychiatrists agreed that the aetiology of the claimant’s very severe . .
CitedCross v Kirkby CA 18-Feb-2000
The claimant was a hunt saboteur and the defendant a local farmer. The claimant shouted to the defendant ‘You’re fucking dead’ and jabbed him in the chest and throat with a broken baseball bat. In order to ward off further blows, the defendant . .
CitedWorrall v British Railways Board CA 29-Apr-1999
The plaintiff alleged that an injury which he has suffered as a result of his employer’s negligence had changed his personality. As a result, he had on two occasions committed sexual assaults on prostitutes, for which offences he had been sentenced . .
CitedRevill v Newbery CA 2-Nov-1995
The defendant owned a shed on an allotment and slept there at night in order to protect his property from the attentions of vandals and thieves. Among other items in the shed the defendant, aged 76 at the time, kept a 12-bore shotgun and cartridges. . .
At first instanceGray v Thames Trains Ltd and Another QBD 6-Jul-2007
The claimant had been injured in an accident for which the defendants were responsible. He developed a personality disorder which led to him committing manslaughter and being detained under section 37. The defendants denied being liable beyond the . .

Cited by:

CitedPrison Officers Association v Iqbal CA 4-Dec-2009
The claimant, a prisoner, alleged false imprisonment. The prison officers had taken unlawful strike action leaving him to be confined within his cell and unable to be involved in his normal activities. In view of the strike, a governor’s order had . .
CitedGnango, Regina v SC 14-Dec-2011
The prosecutor appealed against a successful appeal by the defendant against his conviction for murder. He and an opponent had engaged in a street battle using guns. His opponent had shot an innocent passer by. The court was now asked as to whether . .
CitedLes Laboratoires Servier and Another v Apotex Inc and Others SC 29-Oct-2014
Ex turpi causa explained
The parties had disputed the validity a patent and the production of infringing preparations. The english patent had failed and damages were to be awarded, but a Canadian patent remained the defendant now challenged the calculation of damages for . .
CitedHounga v Allen and Another SC 30-Jul-2014
The appellant, of Nigerian origin had been brought here at the age of 14 with false identity papers, and was put to work caring for the respondent’s children. In 2008 she was dismissed and ejected from the house. She brought proceedings alleging . .
CitedJetivia Sa and Another v Bilta (UK) Ltd and Others SC 22-Apr-2015
The liquidators of Bilta had brought proceedings against former directors and the appellant alleging that they were party to an unlawful means conspiracy which had damaged the company by engaging in a carousel fraud with carbon credits. On the . .
CitedHenderson v Dorset Healthcare University NHS Foundation Trust CA 3-Aug-2018
Upon the allegedly negligent release of the claimant from mental health care, she had, while in the midst of a serious psychotic episode, derived from the schizophrenia, killed her mother and been convicted of manslaughter. She now sought damages in . .
CitedPatel v Mirza SC 20-Jul-2016
The claimant advanced funds to the respondent for him to invest in a bank of which the claimant had insider knowledge. In fact the defendant did not invest the funds, the knowledge was incorrect. The defendant however did not return the sums . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Personal Injury, Negligence, Torts – Other

Updated: 02 May 2022; Ref: scu.347027