Seal v Chief Constable of South Wales Police: HL 4 Jul 2007

The claimant had sought to bring proceedings against the respondent, but as a mental patient subject to the 1983 Act, had been obliged by the section first to obtain consent. The parties disputed whether the failure was a procedural or substantial failing and whether it made the proceedings a nullity.
Held: The claimant’s appeal failed. An action begun without the prior leave of the High Court was a complete nullity.
Lord Bingham of Cornhill said: ‘the words first introduced in section 16(2) of the 1930 Act (‘No proceedings, civil or criminal, shall be brought’) appear to be clear in their effect and have always been thought to be so. They were introduced with the obvious object of giving mental health professionals greater protection than they had enjoyed before. They were re-enacted with knowledge of the effect the courts had given to them. ‘ (Lord Woolf and Baroness Hale dissenting)
Baroness Hale of Richmond (dissenting) said: ‘I approach the task of construing section 139(2), therefore, on the basis that Parliament, by enacting the procedural requirement to obtain leave, did not intend the result to be that a claimant might be deprived of access to the courts, unless there is express language or necessary implication to the contrary. If there is no express language, there will be no necessary implication unless the legislative purpose cannot be achieved in any other way. Procedural requirements are there to serve the ends of justice, not to defeat them. It does not serve the ends of justice for a claimant to be deprived of a meritorious claim because of a procedural failure which does no substantial injustice to the defendant.’


Lord Bingham of Cornhill, Lord Woolf, Baroness Hale of Richmond, Lord Carswell, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood


Times 05-Jul-2007, [2007] UKHL 31, [2007] 4 All ER 177, [2007] 1 WLR 1910




Mental Health Act 1983 139


England and Wales


CitedRendall v Blair 1890
Where a statute requires leave to commence proceedings to be granted, a failure to obtain such consent does not automatically render the proceedings a nullity.
Bowen LJ said: ‘this section is not framed in the way in which sections are framed . .
Appeal fromSeal v Chief Constable of South Wales Police CA 19-May-2005
Mr Seal noisily objected to a neighbour blocking in his car. Police were called who took him into custody under the 1983 Act. He was released several days later, and eventually sought damages for his wrongful treatment. He had failed to first seek . .
CitedRegina v Immigration Appeal Tribunal, ex Parte Jeyeanthan Admn 3-Apr-1998
An appeal by the Home Secretary against a ruling that he had to use the same prescribed form as would be used by the asylum seeker. The use of a letter which omitted a substantial and important declaration was invalid. Lord Woolf MR made plain the . .
CitedIn re Saunders (A Bankrupt) ChD 1997
Very emphatic language was required in a statute before want of leave should, without more, result in proceedings being treated as a nullity. Leave could in appropriate circumstances be granted after the event notwithstanding the proceedings had . .
CitedPyx Granite Ltd v Ministry of Housing and Local Government HL 1959
There is a strong presumption that Parliament will not legislate to prevent individuals affected by legal measures promulgated by executive public bodies having a fair opportunity to challenge these measures and to vindicate their rights in court . .
CitedRegina v Angel CACD 1968
The failure to obtain the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions to a prosecution under section 8 of the Sexual Offences Act 1967 rendered the whole of the trial, including the committal proceedings, a complete nullity. . .
CitedHorton v Sadler and Another HL 14-Jun-2006
The claimant had been injured in a road traffic accident for which the defendant was responsible in negligence. The defendant was not insured, and so a claim was to be made against the MIB. The plaintiff issued proceedings just before the expiry of . .
CitedBradford Corporation v Myers HL 1916
The 1893 Act was criticised for its complexity. A section gave protection to public authorities for ‘any act done in pursuance, or execution, or intended execution of any Act of Parliament, or of any power duty or authority, or in respect of any . .
CitedMagor and St Mellons Rural District Council v Newport Corporaion HL 1951
The Court of Appeal had tried to fill in the gaps in a statute where parliament had intended an effect.
Held: Rights to compensation are well capable of falling within the definition of ‘property of a company’ in the relevant provisions of the . .
CitedSecretary of State for Defence v Warn HL 1970
A courts martial prosecution begun without the necessary prior consent, the proceedings were a nullity. . .
CitedGolder v The United Kingdom ECHR 21-Feb-1975
G was a prisoner who was refused permission by the Home Secretary to consult a solicitor with a view to bringing libel proceedings against a prison officer. The court construed article 6 of ECHR, which provides that ‘in the determination of his . .
CitedWalkley v Precision Forgings Ltd CA 1978
The plaintiff appealed the strict application of the limitation laws against his claim. He had been injured whilst working as a grinder. He began one claim which lapsed, and began a second claim outside the limitation period, requesting the court to . .
CitedLondon and Clydeside Estates v Aberdeen District Council HL 8-Nov-1979
Identifying ‘maandatory’ and ‘regulatory’
The appellants had sought a Certificate of Alternative Development. The certificate provided was defective in that it did not notify the appellants, as required, of their right to appeal. Their appeal out of time was refused.
Held: The House . .
CitedRegina v Pearce CACD 1980
The lack of a required consent by the Attorney General, under section 4(3) of the 1977 Act led to the quashing of the conviction. . .
CitedAshingdane v The United Kingdom ECHR 28-May-1985
The right of access to the courts is not absolute but may be subject to limitations. These are permitted by implication since the right of access ‘by its very nature calls for regulation by the State, regulation which may vary in time and place . .
CitedRegina v Soneji and Bullen HL 21-Jul-2005
The defendants had had confiscation orders made against them. They had appealed on the basis that the orders were made more than six months after sentence. The prosecutor now appealed saying that the fact that the order were not timely did not . .
CitedStubbings and Others v The United Kingdom ECHR 22-Oct-1996
There was no human rights breach where the victims of sex abuse had been refused a right to sue for damages out of time. The question is whether and to what extent differences in otherwise similar situations justify a different treatment in law: . .
CitedM v United Kingdom ECHR 1987
The protection of those responsible for the care of mental patients from being harassed by litigation is a legitimate objective. . .
CitedWinch v Jones CA 1986
The court asked as to the criteria which should be applied when considering an application by a mental patient for leave to bring proceedings under section 139: ‘section 139 protects the defendant unless and until the applicant obtains leave. This . .

Cited by:

CitedIn re F (A Child) (Placement Order); C v East Sussex County Council (Adoption) CA 1-May-2008
The father sought to revoke a freeing order. He said that the social workers had conspired to exclude him from the process. The child was born of a casual relationship, and at first he was unaware of the proceedings. On learning of them he sought to . .
CitedAdorian v The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis CA 23-Jan-2009
The claimant received injuries when arrested. He was later convicted of resisting arrest. The defendant relied on section 329 of the 2003 Act. The claimant said that the force used against him was grossly disproportionate. The commissioner appealed . .
CitedTW v London Borough of Enfield and Another QBD 8-May-2013
The claimant sought damages after being detained under the 1983 Act, and a declaration that the section used was incompatible with her human rights.
Held: The test for allowing proceedings was set at a low level, and even if section 139 does . .
CitedPark v Cho and Others ChD 24-Jan-2014
The parties disputed the chairmanship of a charity. The claimant succeeded, but a third party later intervened saying that permission had not first been obtained from the Charity Commission as required. The defendant now appealed against the lifting . .
CitedLalchan, Regina v CACD 27-May-2022
Conviction withoiut required Consent was Unsafe
Whether a conviction for an offence which requires the consent of the Attorney General before the proceedings are instituted can stand when no such consent was obtained.
Held: The appellant’s arguments were well-founded and his conviction on . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Health, Police

Updated: 30 June 2022; Ref: scu.254551