Hayes v Willoughby: SC 20 Mar 2013

The claimant and appellant had been employer and employee who had fallen out, with a settlement in 2005. The appellant then began an unpleasant and obsessive personal vendetta against Mr Hayes, complaining to public bodies with allegations of tax evasion, fraud and similar. Several investigations all concluded against the appellant, and indeed disproved in 2007. Eventually the respondent sought an order under the 1977 Act which was granted. The court accepted that the appellant was genuine but misguided. The appellant’s appeal was rejected by the Court of Appeal saying that whatever the ‘avowed purpose’ of Mr Willoughby himself, the purpose of his conduct was not reasonably or rationally connected to the prevention or detection of crime after June 2007.
Held: (Lord Reed dissenting) The appeal was dismissed. The court did not accept the distinction made in the Court of Appeal between the party’s objectives and the results of the actions complained of. Both objective and subjective tests had difficulty. The answer lay in testing the rationality rather than the reasonableness of the course of conduct. Rationality will only apply a minimum objective standard to the person’s mental processes, import good faith in requiring a rational connection between the evidence and the ostensible reasons for the decision, and an absence of arbitrariness, capriciousness or reasoning so outrageous in its defiance of logical as to be perverse.
Lord Sumption said: ‘Section 1(3)(a), although it was no doubt drafted mainly with an eye to the prevention or detection of crime by public authorities, applies equally to private persons who take it upon themselves to enforce the criminal law. Within broad limits, the law recognises the right of private persons to do this, but vigilantism can easily and imperceptibly merge into unlawful harassment.’
and ‘I do not doubt that in the context of section 1(3)(a) purpose is a subjective state of mind. But in my opinion, the necessary control mechanism is to be found in the concept of rationality’
and ‘Before an alleged harasser can be said to have had the purpose of preventing or detecting crime, he must have sufficiently applied his mind to the matter. He must have thought rationally about the material suggesting the possibility of criminality and formed the view that the conduct said to constitute harassment was appropriate for the purpose of preventing or detecting it. If he has done these things, then he has the relevant purpose. The court will not test his conclusions by reference to the view which a hypothetical reasonable man in his position would have formed. If, on the other hand, he has not engaged in these minimum mental processes necessary to acquire the relevant state of mind, but proceeds anyway on the footing that he is acting to prevent or detect crime, then he acts irrationally. ‘
Lord Reed dissented saying that there was no requirement that the proposed actions were required to be rational.

Lord Neuberger, President, Lord Mance, Lord Wilson, Lord Sumption, Lord Reed
[2013] UKSC 17, [2013] 2 All ER 405, [2013] WLR(D) 110, [2013] 2 Cr App R 11, [2013] 1 WLR 935, [2013] EMLR 19, UKSC 2012/0010
Bailii, Bailii Summary, WLRD, SC Summary, SC
Protection from Harassment Act 1997 1
England and Wales
Appeal fromHayes v Willoughby CA 13-Dec-2011
Harassment Occurs on the Result, not the Intention
The claimant said that over several years, the respondent had pursued him in many ways challenging his management of a company’s affairs. Complaints had been investigated by the insolvency service and by the police who had discovered nothing to . .
CitedWilliams v Spautz 27-Jul-1992
(High Court of Australia) Criminal Law – Abuse of process – Stay of proceedings – Action for wrongful dismissal against university – Information for criminal defamation by plaintiff against officer of university – Predominant purpose of informant to . .
CitedThomas v News Group Newspapers Ltd and Simon Hughes CA 18-Jul-2001
A civilian police worker had reported officers for racist remarks. The newspaper repeatedly printed articles and encouraged correspondence which was racially motivated, to the acute distress of the complainant.
Held: Repeated newspaper stories . .
CitedEDO MBM v Axworthy QBD 4-Nov-2005
The several defendants were said to have conducted against the claimants, protesting at their involvement in arms design and manufacture. The claimant sought orders under the 1997 Act to restrain them thus protecting its staff.
Held: The . .
CitedKD v Chief Constable of Hampshire QBD 23-Nov-2005
The claimant’s daughter had made a complaint of rape. She alleged that she was sexually harassed by the investigating police officer, and sought damages also from the defendant, his employer. The officer denied that anything improper or . .
CitedHowlett v Holding QBD 25-Jan-2006
The court had granted an injunction to restrain the defendant from flying aircraft trailing banners abusive of the claimant. He now said that this infringed his right to free speech, and that his actions were permitted by virtue of section 1(3).
CitedMajrowski v Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust HL 12-Jul-2006
Employer can be liable for Managers Harassment
The claimant employee sought damages, saying that he had been bullied by his manager and that bullying amounting to harassment under the 1997 Act. The employer now appealed a finding that it was responsible for a tort committed by a manager, saying . .
CitedSocimer International Bank Ltd v Standard Bank London Ltd CA 22-Feb-2008
Rix LJ considered the restraints operating a party to a contract in exercising any discretion gien under it, preferring the use of the term ‘irrationality’ to ‘unreasonableness’: ‘It is plain from these authorities that a decision-maker’s discretion . .
CitedLudgate Insurance Company Limited v Citibank NA CA 26-Jan-1998
Brooke LJ said that the circumstances in which the court will interfere with the exercise by a party to a contract of a contractual discretion given to it by another party are extremely limited. The courts will not intervene where the discretion is . .
CitedSpread Trustee Company Ltd v Hutcheson and Others PC 15-Jun-2011
(Guernsey) . .

Cited by:
CitedBraganza v BP Shipping Ltd SC 18-Mar-2015
The claimant’s husband had been lost from the defendant’s ship at sea. The defendant had contracted to pay compensation unless the loss was by suicide. They so determined. The court was now asked whether that was a permissible conclusion in the . .
CitedGerrard and Another v Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation Ltd and Another QBD 27-Nov-2020
The claimants, a solicitor and his wife, sought damages in harassment and data protection, against a party to proceedings in which he was acting professionally, and against the investigative firm instructed by them. The defendants now requested the . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Torts – Other

Leading Case

Updated: 01 November 2021; Ref: scu.471913