Lincoln v Daniels: CA 1961

The defendant claimed absolute immunity in respect of communications sent by him to the Bar Council alleging professional misconduct by the plaintiff, a Queen’s Counsel.
Held: Initial communications sent to the secretary of the Bar Council alleging professional misconduct by a barrister did not attract absolute privilege, since they were not yet a step in an inquiry before an Inn of Court.
Matters submitted to proceedings before an inquiry conducted by the Inn would attract the same privilege as they would in proceedings before a court.
Devlin LJ said: ‘On such a point form is of the first importance; it is by form rather than by the substance of the complaint that a writ is to be distinguished from a letter before action.’
and ‘the privilege that covers proceedings in a court of justice ought not to be extended to matters outside those proceedings except where it is strictly necessary to do so in order to protect those who are to participate in the proceedings from a flank attack. It is true that it is not absolutely necessary for a witness to give a proof, but it is practically necessary for him to do so, as it is practically necessary for a litigant to engage a solicitor.’ and
‘It is not at all easy to determine the scope and extent of the principle in Watson v M’Ewan. I have come to the conclusion that the privilege that covers proceedings in a court of justice ought not to be extended to matters outside those proceedings except where it is strictly necessary to do in order to protect those who are to participate in the proceedings from a flank attack. It is true that it is not absolutely necessary for a witness to give a proof, but it is practically necessary for him to do so, as it is practically necessary for a litigant to engage a solicitor. The sense of Lord Halsbury’s speech is that the extension of the privilege to proofs and pre-cognition is practically necessary for the administration of justice; without it, in his view, no witness could be called. I do not think that the same degree of necessity can be said to attach to the functions of the Bar Council in relation to the Inns of Court.’
Devlin LJ explained the rationale for the distinction between domestic tribunals and those recognised by law: ‘A private institution, such as a club, may set up a body to determine questions of admission and expulsion and it may be composed entirely of lawyers and may follow with exactitude the procedure of a court of law. But absolute privilege is granted only as a matter of public policy and must therefore on principle be confined to matters in which the public is interested and where therefore it is of importance that the whole truth should be elicited even at the risk that an injury inflicted maliciously may go unredressed. The public is not interested in the membership of a private club. The significance of . . the . . requirement . . that the Court or tribunal should be recognised by law . . is that it shows that the public is interested in the matter to be determined by the court. Parliament would not, for example, regulate the disciplining of solicitors if there were not a public interest in the sort of men who practise as solicitors. The same consideration applies to the Bar.’
Devlin LJ considered that absolute privilege fell into three categories: ‘The absolute privilege which covers proceedings in or before a court of justice can be divided into three categories. The first category covers all matters that are done coram judice. This extends to everything that is said in the course of proceedings by judges, parties, counsel and witnesses, and includes the contents of documents put in as evidence. The second covers everything that is done from the inception of the proceedings onwards and extends to all pleadings and other documents brought into existence for the purpose of the proceedings and starting with the writ or other document which institutes the proceedings. The third category is the most difficult of the three to define. It is based on the authority of Watson v McEwan [1905] AC 480 in which the House of Lords held that the privilege attaching to evidence which a witness gave coram judice extended to the precognition or proof of that evidence taken by a solicitor. It is immaterial whether the proof is or is not taken in the course of proceedings. In Beresford v. White (1914) 30 TLR 591 the privilege was held to attach to what was said in the course of an interview by a solicitor with a person who might or might not be in a position to be a witness on behalf of his client in contemplated proceedings.’
Devlin LJ, Sellers LJ
[1962] 1 QB 237, [1961] 3 WLR 866, [1961] 3 All ER 740, (1961) 105 Sol Jo 647
England and Wales
Citing:
CitedWatson v M’Ewan HL 1905
A claim was brought against a medical witness in respect of statements made in preparation of a witness statement and similar statements subsequently made in court. The appellant was a doctor of medicine who had been retained by the respondent in . .

Cited by:
CitedDarker v Chief Constable of The West Midlands Police HL 1-Aug-2000
The plaintiffs had been indicted on counts alleging conspiracy to import drugs and conspiracy to forge traveller’s cheques. During the criminal trial it emerged that there had been such inadequate disclosure by the police that the proceedings were . .
CitedBuckley v Dalziel QBD 3-May-2007
There was a heated dispute between neighbours, culminating in some generous or perhaps over-generous pruning by the claimant of the defendant’s trees and shrubs on the boundaries. The defendants reported the matter to the police. Both Mr and Mrs . .
CitedWestcott v Westcott CA 15-Jul-2008
The defendant was the claimant’s daughter in law. In the course of a bitter divorce she made allegations to the police which were investigated but did not lead to a prosecution. The claimant appealed dismissal of his claim for defamation on the . .
CitedSilcott v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis CA 24-May-1996
The claimant had been convicted of the murder of PC Blakelock. The only substantial evidence was in the form of the notes of interview he said were fabricated by senior officers. His eventual appeal on this basis was not resisted. He now appealed . .
CitedWhite v Southampton University Hospitals NHS Trust and Another QBD 1-Apr-2011
The claimant doctor sued in defamation for letters written by the defendants to the Fitness to Practice Directorate. She now sought to appeal against a finding that she could not rely upon one letter which had come to her attention through . .
CitedIqbal v Mansoor and Others QBD 26-Aug-2011
The claimant sought the disapplication of the limitation period in order to pursue the defendant solicitors, his former employers, in defamation. . .
CitedIqbal v Mansoor and Others QBD 26-Aug-2011
The claimant sought the disapplication of the limitation period in order to pursue the defendant solicitors, his former employers, in defamation. . .
CitedIqbal v Mansoor and Others QBD 26-Aug-2011
The claimant sought the disapplication of the limitation period in order to pursue the defendant solicitors, his former employers, in defamation. . .
CitedSingh v Moorlands Primary School and Another CA 25-Jul-2013
The claimant was a non-white head teacher, alleging that her school governors and local authority had undermined and had ‘deliberately endorsed a targeted campaign of discrimination, bullying, harassment and victimisation’ against her as an Asian . .
CitedO’Connor v Bar Standards Board SC 6-Dec-2017
The claimant barrister complained of the manner of conduct of the disciplinary proceedings brought against her. She had been cleared of any breach of the Bar Code of Conduct, but her claim was then ruled out of time under section 7(5)(a), time . .

These lists may be incomplete.
Updated: 11 May 2021; Ref: scu.180924