M v Home Office and Another; In re M: HL 27 Jul 1993

A Zairian sought asylum, but his application, and an application for judicial review were rejected. He was notified that he was to be returned to Zaire, but then issued new proceedings for judicial review. The judge said that his removal should be delayed, and accepted an undertaking from counsel to the Crown that he would not be removed. He was removed in breach of the undertaking, which counsel then did not accept he had given. The judge ordered the return of M to this country. The respondent said the court had no power either of mandamus or in contempt against the Crown.
Held: A court can grant a final and or an interim injunction against the Crown, and the Crown and ministers of the Crown, are not immune to contempt proceedings for breach of an injunction.
Section 21 of the 1947 Act did not prevent an injunction being granted in a situation in which it could have been granted prior to the Act and section 31(2) of the Supreme Court Act 1981 gave jurisdiction to the court on applications for judicial review to grant injunctions, including interim injunctions, against ministers and other officers of the Crown. The effect of the 1947 Act was that it is only in those situations where prior to the Act no injunctive relief could be obtained that section 21 prevents an injunction being granted. This was the least that could be expected from legislation intended to make it easier for proceedings to be brought against the Crown.
Lord Templeman said: ‘My Lords, the argument that there is no power to enforce the law by injunction or contempt proceedings against a minister in his official capacity would, if upheld, establish the proposition that the executive obey the law as a matter of grace and not as a matter of necessity, a proposition which would reverse the result of the Civil War. For the reasons given by my noble and learned friend, Lord Woolf, and on principle, I am satisfied that injunctions and contempt proceedings may be brought against the minister in his official capacity and that in the present case the Home Office for which the Secretary of State was responsible was in contempt.’
Lord Templeman criticised ‘the proposition that the executive obey the law as a matter of grace and not as a matter of necessity [as] a proposition which would reverse the result of the Civil War’. The proposition that a member of the executive can actually overrule a decision of the judiciary because he does not agree with that decision is equally remarkable, even if one allows for the fact that the executive’s overruling can be judicially reviewed. Indeed, the notion of judicial review in such circumstances is a little quaint, as it can be said with some force that the rule of law would require a judge, almost as a matter of course, to quash the executive decision.

Lord Woolf, Lord Donaldson of Lymington MR
Times 28-Jul-1993, Gazette 13-Oct-1993, Independent 28-Jul-1993, [1994] 1 AC 377, [1993] UKHL 5, [1993] 3 WLR 43, [1993] 3 All ER 537
Crown Proceedings Act 1947 21, Supreme Court Act 1981
England and Wales
CitedMerricks v Heathcote-Amery 1955
. .
CitedRegina v Secretary of State for Transport, Ex parte Factortame Ltd HL 18-May-1989
The applicants were companies owned largely by Spanish nationals operating fishing vessels within UK waters. The 1988 Act required them to re-register the vessels as British fishing vessels. The sought suspension of enforcement pending a reference . .

Cited by:
CitedMcDonald v Secretary of State for Scotland ScSf 1994
The pursuer was a serving prisoner. He said he had been repeatedly searched without lawful authority, warrant or justifiable cause. He raised an action of reparation in the sheriff court in which he sought damages from the Secretary of State for . .
CitedDavidson v Scottish Ministers HL 15-Jul-2004
The claimant had sought damages for the conditions in which he had been held in prison in Scotland. He later discovered that one of the judges had acted as Lord Advocate representing as to the ability of the new Scottish Parliamentary system to . .
CitedMcDonald v Secretary of State for Scotland IHCS 2-Feb-1994
The pursuer, a prisoner, complained that he had been subject to repeated searches which he claimed were illegal. He sought damages and an injunction.
Held: The action which the pursuer had raised was an ordinary action in the sheriff court was . .
CitedPetition of Andrew Scott and Scott Davidson for Judicial Review of A Decision To Continue Their Detention In Inhumane Prison Conditions SCS 26-Oct-2001
Each applicant sought an interim order against the Scottish Minister with respect to their treatment in prison. It had been found that the conditions in Barlinnie Prison were inhumane. The Crown responded that the court had no jurisdiction to make . .
CitedReclaiming Motion In Petition of Scott Davidson for Judicial Review of A Decision To Continue To Detain the Prisoner In Inhuman and Degrading Prison C SCS 18-Dec-2001
A prisoner sought an order for his removal from a prison found to have a regime which breached his human rights. The Crown replied that an order could not be made under s21 of the 1947 Act.
Held: The prisoner had followed through his rights to . .
CitedDavidson v Scottish Ministers HL 15-Dec-2005
The complainant a prisoner sought an order that he should not be kept in conditions found to be inhumane. He had been detained in Barlinnie priosn. The Crown replied that a mandatory order was not available against the Scottish Ministers.
CitedBeggs v Scottish Ministers HL 7-Feb-2007
The claimant, a serving prisoner, had sought to sue the prison authorities for the conditions in which he was kept. He complained that his correspondence with his lawyers had been unlwafully opened by the prison. Repeatedly, undertakings were given . .
CitedRoberts v Swangrove Estates Ltd and Another ChD 14-Mar-2007
The court heard preliminary applications in a case asserting acquisition of land by adverse possession, the land being parts of the foreshore of the Severn Estuary.
Held: A person may acquire title to part of the bed of a tidal river by . .
CitedBancoult, Regina (on the Application of) v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (No 2) HL 22-Oct-2008
The claimants challenged the 2004 Order which prevented their return to their homes on the Chagos Islands. The islanders had been taken off the island to leave it for use as a US airbase. In 2004, the island was no longer needed, and payment had . .
CitedEvans and Another, Regina (on The Application of) v Attorney General SC 26-Mar-2015
The Attorney General appealed against a decision for the release under the Act and Regulations of letters from HRH The Prince of Wales to various ministers and government departments.
Held: The appeal failed (Majority). The A-G had not been . .
CitedMajera, Regina (on The Application of v Secretary of State for The Home Department SC 20-Oct-2021
The Court was asked whether the Government can lawfully act in a manner which is inconsistent with an order of a judge which is defective, without first applying for, and obtaining, the variation or setting aside of the order. The appellant had been . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Litigation Practice, Judicial Review, Contempt of Court, Constitutional

Leading Case

Updated: 01 November 2021; Ref: scu.83259