Sirros v Moore: CA 1974

Lord Denning MR discussed the immunity of judges from suit: ‘Ever since the year 1613, if not before, it has been accepted in our law that no action is maintainable against a judge for anything said or done by him in the exercise of a jurisdiction which belongs to him. The words which he speaks are protected by an absolute privilege. The orders which he gives, and the sentences which he imposes, cannot be made the subject of civil proceedings against him. No matter that the judge was under some gross error or ignorance, or was actuated by envy, hatred and malice, and all uncharitableness, he is not liable to an action. The remedy of the party aggrieved is to appeal to a Court of Appeal or to apply for habeas corpus, or a writ of error or certiorari, or to take some such step to reverse his ruling. Of course, if the judge has accepted bribes or been in the least degree corrupt, or has perverted the course of justice, he can be punished in the criminal courts. That apart, however, a judge is not liable to an action for damages. The reason is not because the judge has any privilege to make mistakes or to do wrong. It is so that he should be able to do his duty with complete independence and free from fear . . These words apply not only to the judges of the superior courts, but to judges of all ranks, high or low.’ However the doctrine of judicial immunity does not apply: ‘if it be shown that [a judge] was not acting judicially, knowing that he had no jurisdiction to do it.’


Lord Denning MR


[1975] QB 118, [1974] 3 All ER 776


England and Wales

Constitutional, Legal Professions

Updated: 06 May 2022; Ref: scu.452169