Holland v Lampen-Wolfe: HL 20 Jul 2000

The US established a base at Menwith Hill in Yorkshire, and provided educational services through its staff to staff families. The claimant a teacher employed at the base alleged that a report on her was defamatory. The defendant relied on state immunity.
Held: A claim in libel was defeated by a claim of sovereign immunity. Such provision was part of its Acts as a state, and attracted sovereign immunity. A report which was defamatory of the plaintiff as to her teaching skills and which report was prepared as part of the provision of such services was something done by the armed forces of the US: ‘the performance of her teaching obligations under the contract between the University and the American Government involved the public function of the state in the provision of instruction to the American forces and their families. The supervisory functions required of the respondent were correspondingly involved in that same enterprise. ‘
Lord Millett said: ‘state immunity is not a ‘self-imposed restriction on the jurisdiction of its courts which the United Kingdom has chosen to adopt’ and which it can, as a matter of discretion, relax or abandon. It is imposed by international law without any discrimination between one state and another. It would be invidious in the extreme for the judicial branch of government to have the power to decide that it will allow the investigation of allegations of torture against the officials of one foreign state but not against those of another.’
Lord Millet said: ‘Article 6 requires contracting states to maintain fair and public judicial processes and forbids them to deny individuals access to those processes for the determination of their civil rights. It presupposes that the contracting states have the powers of adjudication necessary to resolve the issues in dispute. But it does not confer on contracting states adjudicative powers which they do not possess. State immunity, as I have explained, is a creature of customary international law and derives from the equality of sovereign states. It is not a self-imposed restriction on the jurisdiction of its courts which the United Kingdom has chosen to adopt. It is a limitation imposed from without upon the sovereignty of the United Kingdom itself.
The immunity in question in the present case belongs to the United States. The United States has not waived its immunity. It is not a party to the Convention. The Convention derives its binding force from the consent of the contracting states. The United Kingdom cannot, by its own act of acceding to the Convention and without the consent of the United States, obtain a power of adjudication over the United States which international law denies it.’
Lord Millett, Lord Hope of Craighead Lord Cooke of Thorndon Lord Clyde, Lord Hobhouse of Woodborough
Gazette 17-Aug-2000, Times 27-Jul-2000, Gazette 03-Aug-2000, [2000] 1 WLR 1573, [2000] UKHL 40, [2000] 3 All ER 833
House of Lords, Bailii
State Immunity Act 1978, European Convention on Human Rights 6
England and Wales
CitedPeter Buchanan Limited and Macharg v McVey 1954
(Supreme Court of Ireland) The plaintiff was a company registered in Scotland put into compulsory liquidation by the revenue under a substantial claim for excess profits tax and income tax. The liquidator was really a nominee of the revenue. The . .
CitedPlaya Larga (Owners of Cargo Lately Laden on Board) v I Congresso del Partido (Owners) HL 1983
The concept of absolute immunity for a Sovereign adopts a theory of restrictive immunity in so far as it concerns the activities of a State engaging in trade: (Lord Wilberforce) ‘It was argued by the [appellants] that even if the Republic of Cuba . .
CitedWaite and Kennedy v Germany ECHR 18-Feb-1999
The grant of immunity from the jurisdiction of the national court to an international organisation according to a long-standing practice essential for ensuring the proper functioning of these organisations free from unilateral interference by . .
CitedCompania Naviera Vascongado v Steamship ‘Cristina’ HL 1938
A state-owned ship that was used for public purposes could not be made the subject of proceedings in rem. Lord Atkin described the absolute immunity of a sovereign of a foreign state within this jurisdiction: ‘The foundation for the application to . .
CitedMcElhinney v Ireland; Al-Adsani v United Kingdom; Fogarty v United Kingdom ECHR 21-Nov-2001
Grand Chamber – The first applicant said he had been injured by a shot fired by a British soldier who had been carried for two miles into the Republic of Ireland, clinging to the applicant’s vehicle following an incident at a checkpoint.
Held: . .
CitedThe Owners of The Ship Philippine Admiral (Philippine Flag) v Wellem Shipping (Hong Kong) Limited and Another PC 5-Nov-1975
(Hong Kong) Sovereign immunity was denied to state trading ships, restricting the extent of state immunity. . .
CitedDerbyshire County Council v Times Newspapers Ltd and Others CA 19-Apr-1992
In two issues of ‘The Sunday Times’ newspaper on 17 and 24 September 1989 there appeared articles concerning share deals involving the superannuation fund of the Derbyshire County Council. The articles in the issue of 17 September were headed . .
CitedRegina v Bartle and Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis and Others, ex parte Pinochet Ugarte; Regina v Evans and Similar (No 3) HL 24-Mar-1999
An application to extradite a former head of state for an offence which was not at the time an offence under English law would fail, but could proceed in respect of allegations of acts after that time. No immunity was intended for heads of state. . .
CitedOsman v The United Kingdom ECHR 28-Oct-1998
Police’s Complete Immunity was Too Wide
(Grand Chamber) A male teacher developed an obsession with a male pupil. He changed his name by deed poll to the pupil’s surname. He was required to teach at another school. The pupil’s family’s property was subjected to numerous acts of vandalism, . .
CitedLittrell v Government of the United States of America and Another (No 2) CA 24-Nov-1993
The plaintiff claimed damages for personal injuries arising from medical treatment which he had received at a United States military hospital in the United Kingdom while a serving member of the United States Air Force.
Held: Section 16(2) . .
CitedX (Minors) v Bedfordshire County Council; M (A Minor) and Another v Newham London Borough Council; Etc HL 29-Jun-1995
Liability in Damages on Statute Breach to be Clear
Damages were to be awarded against a Local Authority for breach of statutory duty in a care case only if the statute was clear that damages were capable of being awarded. in the ordinary case a breach of statutory duty does not, by itself, give rise . .
CitedM and Another v Newham London Borough Council and Others; X (Minors) v Bedfordshire County Council CA 24-Feb-1994
A local authority was not liable in damages for breach of a statutory duty in Social Services. The policy which has first claim on the loyalty of the law is that wrongs should be remedied. The court would not go so far as to hold that the education . .
CitedNCF and AG v Italy 1995
The Commission held the application inadmissible on the ground, among others, that article 6 should be interpreted with due regard to parliamentary and diplomatic immunities as traditionally recognised. In the absence of any directly relevant . .
CitedFayed v United Kingdom ECHR 6-Oct-1994
The Secretary of State had appointed inspectors to investigate and report on a company takeover. In their report, which was published, the inspectors made findings which were critical of and damaging to the applicants, who relied on the civil limb . .
Appeal fromHolland v Lampen-Wolfe CA 30-Jul-1998
A US citizen acting in course of employment as educational officer on US military base in the UK enjoyed state immunity from liability for defamation. This applied though he was a civilian and the State Immunity Act 1978 did not apply. . .

Cited by:
CitedJones v Ministry of Interior for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and others HL 14-Jun-2006
The claimants said that they had been tortured by Saudi police when arrested on false charges. They sought damages, and appealed against an order denying jurisdiction over the defendants. They said that the allegation of torture allowed an exception . .
CitedAziz v Aziz and others CA 11-Jul-2007
The claimant sought return of recordings and of money paid to the defendant through an alleged fraud or threats. She was the former wife of the Sultan of Brunei and head of state, who now sought an order requiring the court to protect his identity . .
CitedSmith, Regina (on The Application of) v Secretary of State for Defence and Oxfordshire Assistant Deputy Coroner (Equality and Human Rights Commission intervening) SC 30-Jun-2010
The deceased soldier died of heat exhaustion whilst on active service in Iraq. It was said that he was owed a duty under human rights laws, and that any coroner’s inquest should be a fuller one to satisfy the state’s duty under Article 2.
CitedReyes and Another v Al-Malki and Another CA 5-Feb-2015
The claimants wished to make employment law claims alleging, inter alia, that they had suffered racial discrimination and harassment, and had been paid less than the national minimum wage aganst the respondents. They had been assessed as having been . .
CitedThe United States of America v Nolan SC 21-Oct-2015
Mrs Nolan had been employed at a US airbase. When it closed, and she was made redundant, she complained that the appellant had not consulted properly on the redundancies. The US denied that it had responsibility to consult, and now appealed.
CitedBelhaj and Another v Straw and Others SC 17-Jan-2017
The claimant alleged complicity by the defendant, (now former) Foreign Secretary, in his mistreatment by the US while held in Libya. He also alleged involvement in his unlawful abduction and removal to Libya, from which had had fled for political . .
CitedBenkharbouche v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs SC 18-Oct-2017
The court was asked as to the compatibility of provisions in the 1978 Act with the human rights of the appellant. The claimants, Moroccan nationals were employed as domestic staff in embassies in London. They alleged both race discrimination and . .
CitedBenkharbouche v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs SC 18-Oct-2017
The court was asked as to the compatibility of provisions in the 1978 Act with the human rights of the appellant. The claimants, Moroccan nationals were employed as domestic staff in embassies in London. They alleged both race discrimination and . .

These lists may be incomplete.
Updated: 06 March 2021; Ref: scu.159074