Smith v Linskills: CA 1996

The claimant, a convicted burglar took proceedings against his former solicitors. He alleged that the negligence of the solicitor caused his wrongful conviction.
Held: The case was dismissed. The claimant was seeking to re-litigate issues which had already been litigated in proceedings in the criminal court in which he had been a participant. The case of Hunter does not lay down an inflexible rule to be applied willy-nilly to all cases which might arguably be said to be within it.
CS Sir Thomas Bingham MR identified: ‘the affront to any coherent system of justice which must necessarily arise if there subsist two final but inconsistent decisions of courts of competent jurisdiction. Such would, we think, be the case here if there were a subsisting Crown Court decision that Mr Smith was, beyond reasonable doubt, guilty of aggravated burglary and a subsisting civil court decision that if his defence been properly prepared he would and should have been acquitted. No reasonable observer could view this outcome with equanimity. ‘ and ‘It is, however, plain that the thrust of his case in these proceedings is that if his criminal defence had been handled with proper care he would not, and should not, have been convicted. Thus the soundness or otherwise of his criminal conviction is an issue at the heart of these proceedings. Were he to recover substantial damages, it could only be on the basis that he should not have been convicted . . It is certainly true that in his speech in Hunter’s case . . Lord Diplock attached considerable significance to the ulterior purpose which lay behind the proceedings brought by the intending plaintiff in that case. We have no doubt at all but that the existence of such an ulterior motive provides a strong and additional ground for holding proceedings to be an abuse. The question is whether such an ulterior motive is a necessary ingredient of abuse.’


Sir Thomas Bingham, MR


Gazette 28-Feb-1996, Times 07-Feb-1996, [1996] 1 WLR 763, [1996] 2 All ER 353


England and Wales


CitedHunter v Chief Constable of the West Midlands Police HL 19-Nov-1981
No collateral attack on Jury findigs.
An attempt was made to open up in a civil action, allegations of assaults by the police prior to the making of confessions which had been disposed of in a voir dire in the course of a criminal trial. The plaintiffs had imprisoned having spent many . .

Cited by:

CitedArthur 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 . .
AppliedRegina v Steidl and Baxendale-Walker 27-Jun-2002
(Southwark Crown Court) The case was a prosecution for serious fraud. In civil proceedings, despite evidence to suggest a powerful case for dishonesty, a High Court judge had concluded that the claimant had failed to establish that the defendant, . .
Applied0Regina v Stocker CCC 23-Nov-2004
(Central Criminal Court) The court was due to try a case alleging that the defendant had killed her child. In care proceedings Hedley J had concluded that a mother had killed her child, but he was positively satisfied that she lacked the intention . .
CitedRegina v Belmarsh Magistrates’ Court ex parte Fiona Watts Admn 8-Feb-1999
The defendant sought to have dismissed as an abuse of proces charges against her that as an officer of Customs and Excise prosecuting the now private prosecutor, she had committed various offences.
Held: The magistrate was vested with . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Professional Negligence, Legal Professions, Litigation Practice

Updated: 28 April 2022; Ref: scu.181090