Rondel v Worsley: HL 1967

Need for Advocate’s Immunity from Negligence

The appellant had obtained the services of the respondent barrister to defend him on a dock brief, and alleged that the respondent had been negligent in the conduct of his defence.
Held: The House considered the immunity from suit of barristers acting in court. An advocate should remain immune from negligence in respect of his actions in court.
Lord Morris of Borth y Gest said that the immunity extended to the ‘conduct and management of a case in court’ by the advocate. The existence of liability in negligence, and indeed the very possibility of making assertions of liability against a barrister, might tend to undermine the willingness of barristers to carry out their duties to the court. An advocate should not be under pressure unwarrantably to subordinate his duty to the court to his duty to the client. The court re-inforced the undesirability of relitigating issues already decided. Also the ‘cab rank’ rule, imposed upon barristers, an obligation to accept instructions from anyone who wishes to engage their services in an area of the law in which they practised.
Lord Reid applied the immunity to the ‘conduct of litigation’ and being ‘engaged in litigation’. These phrases embodied the work covered in drawing pleadings or conducting subsequent stages in the case, and it would also apply to some cases where litigation was ‘impending’ but not to advisory work ‘where that consideration did not apply’.
Lord Reid continued: ‘Every counsel has a duty to his client fearlessly to raise every issue, advance every argument, and ask every question, however distasteful, which he thinks will help his client’s case. But, as an officer of the court concerned in the administration of justice, he has an overriding duty to the court, to the standards of his profession, and to the public, which may and often does lead to a conflict with his client’s wishes or with what the client thinks are his personal interests. Counsel must not mislead the court, he must not lend himself to casting aspersions on the other party or witnesses for which there is no sufficient basis in the information in his possession, he must not withhold authorities or documents which may tell against his clients but which the law or the standards of his profession require him to produce. And by so acting he may well incur the displeasure or worse of his client so that if the case is lost, his client would or might seek legal redress if that were open to him . . So the issue appears to me to be whether the abolition of the rule would probably be attended by such disadvantage to the public interest as to make its retention clearly justifiable. I would not expect any counsel to be influenced by the possibility of an action being raised against him to such an extent that he would knowingly depart from his duty to the court or to his profession. …

Lord Reid, Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest, Lord Upjohn, Lord Pearson
[1969] 1 AC 191, [1967] UKHL 5, [1967] 3 All ER 993 HL(E), [1967] 3 WLR 1666
England and Wales
Cited by:
CitedAtwell v Perr and Co and Another ChD 27-Jul-1998
Counsel advising during conduct of case has immunity but a wrongful advice on appeal was outside his immunity. Work done before a hearing constituting the formulation of case was within the immunity from suit. . .
OverruledArthur JS Hall and Co (A Firm) v Simons; Barratt v Woolf Seddon (A Firm); Harris v Schofield Roberts and Hill (A Firm) HL 20-Jul-2000
Clients sued their solicitors for negligence. The solicitors responded by claiming that, when acting as advocates, they had the same immunities granted to barristers.
Held: The immunity from suit for negligence enjoyed by advocates acting in . .
ConsideredSaif Ali v Sydney Mitchell and Co (a Firm) HL 1978
Extent of Counsel’s Immunity in Negligence
The House considered the extent of a barrister’s immunity from action in negligence, and particularly whether it covered pre-trial acts or omissions in connection with civil proceedings.
Held: A barrister’s immunity from suit extended only to . .
CitedDutton v Bognor Regis Urban District Council CA 1972
The court considered the liability in negligence of a Council whose inspector had approved a building which later proved defective.
Held: The Council had control of the work and with such control came a responsibility to take care in . .
CitedHill v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire HL 28-Apr-1987
No General ty of Care Owed by Police
The mother of a victim of the Yorkshire Ripper claimed in negligence against the police alleging that they had failed to satisfy their duty to exercise all reasonable care and skill to apprehend the perpetrator of the murders and to protect members . .
CitedNational Westminster Bank plc v Spectrum Plus Limited and others HL 30-Jun-2005
Former HL decision in Siebe Gorman overruled
The company had become insolvent. The bank had a debenture and claimed that its charge over the book debts had become a fixed charge. The preferential creditors said that the charge was a floating charge and that they took priority.
Held: The . .
CitedKelley v Corston CA 20-Aug-1997
The plaintiff employed the defendant barrister to pursue her claim for ancillary relief in divorce. She sought to recover damages for his alleged negligence.
Held: A barrister’s immunity from suit for negligence in advocacy extends to . .
CitedVan Colle v Hertfordshire Police QBD 10-Mar-2006
The claimants claimed for the estate of their murdered son. He had been waiting to give evidence in a criminal trial, and had asked the police for support having received threats. Other witnesses had also suffered intimidation including acts of . .
CitedVan Colle v Hertfordshire Police QBD 10-Mar-2006
The claimants claimed for the estate of their murdered son. He had been waiting to give evidence in a criminal trial, and had asked the police for support having received threats. Other witnesses had also suffered intimidation including acts of . .
CitedRidehalgh v Horsefield; Allen v Unigate Dairies Ltd CA 26-Jan-1994
Guidance for Wasted Costs Orders
Guidance was given on the circumstances required for the making of wasted costs orders against legal advisers. A judge invited to make an order arising out of an advocate’s conduct of court proceedings must make full allowance for the fact that an . .
CitedJones v Kaney SC 30-Mar-2011
An expert witness admitted signing a joint report but without agreeing to it. The claimant who had lost his case now pursued her in negligence. The claimant appealed against a finding that the expert witness was immune from action.
Held: The . .
CitedLumsdon and Others, Regina (on The Application of) v Legal Services Board Admn 20-Jan-2014
Four barristers challenged, by a judicial review, a decision by which the LSB approved an application proposed by the BSB jointly with two other approved regulators, the SRA and IPS, to introduce the Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates . .
CitedMichael and Others v The Chief Constable of South Wales Police and Another SC 28-Jan-2015
The claimants asserted negligence in the defendant in failing to provide an adequate response to an emergency call, leading, they said to the death of their daughter at the hands of her violent partner. They claimed also under the 1998 Act. The . .
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 . .
AppliedRees v Sinclair 1974
(New Zealand Court of Appeal) The court discussed the indemnity given to witnesses: ‘But I cannot narrow the protection to what is done in court: it must be wider than that and include some pre-trial work. Each piece of before-trial work should, . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Professional Negligence, Legal Professions

Leading Case

Updated: 31 October 2021; Ref: scu.181060