Three Rivers District Council and Others v Governor and Company of The Bank of England: HL 18 May 2000

The applicants alleged misfeasance against the Bank of England in respect of the regulation of a bank.
Held: The Bank could not be sued in negligence, but the tort of misfeasance required clear evidence of misdeeds. The action was now properly pleaded, and the bank knew the case it had to answer. The issue of whether there was sufficient evidence to support the allegation to the high standard required, was not a matter for summary assessment, but for the judge at trial. It was not appropriate to strike out the action. The defendant must be a public officer in a wide sense, and exercising power as such.
A claim of misfeasance in public office gives rise to four principal questions: ‘i) Was the conduct complained of that of public officers, exercising power in that capacity?
ii) Did the officers act knowingly or recklessly beyond their powers?
iii) Did they thereby cause damage to the claimant?
iv) Did they know that the act(s) in question probably would cause such damage or were they reckless in that regard?’
Lord Steyn said: ‘The case law reveals two different forms of liability for misfeasance in public office. First there is the case of targeted malice by a public officer, i.e. conduct specifically intended to injure a person or persons. This type of case involves bad faith in the sense of the exercise of public power for an improper or ulterior motive. The second form is where a public officer acts, knowing that he has no power to do the act complained of and that the act will probably injure the plaintiff. It involves bad faith inasmuch as the public officer does not have an honest belief that his act is lawful.’

Lord Steyn, Lord Hope of Craighead, Lord Hutton, Lord Hobhouse of Woodborough, Lord Millett
Gazette 08-Jun-2000, [2000] UKHL 331, [2000] 2 WLR 1220, [2000] 3 All ER 1
First Council Banking Co-ordination Directive (77/780/EEC)
England and Wales
Appeal fromThree Rivers District Council and Others v Governor and Company of the Bank of England (No 3) CA 10-Dec-1998
The tort of misfeasance in public office is not separated into two distinct limbs. In each case the Plaintiff must show a deliberate and dishonest abuse of his position by a public official aware of the loss that will follow or reckless as to such a . .
CitedTurner v Sterling 1671
The plaintiff complained that his election as one of two custodians of London Bridge, a remunerated office, was thwarted by the malicious and unlawful action of the Lord Mayor. It was an action upon the case.
Held: The action would lie. Wylde . .
CitedAshby v White KBD 1703
Mr Ashby a burgess of the borough of Aylesbury was deprived of his right to vote by the misfeasance of a returning officer.
Held: The majority rejected the claim.
Lord Holt CJ (dissenting) An action would lie: ‘If the plaintiff has a . .
CitedDavis v Bromley Corporation CA 1907
The plaintiff had submitted building plans for the defendant’s approval, which were refused for alleged non-compliance with by-laws. The Plaintiff contended that the plans complied with the by-laws and that the rejection was not bona fide.
CitedX (Minors) v Bedfordshire County Council; M (A Minor) and Another v Newham London Borough Council; Etc HL 29-Jun-1995
Liability in Damages on Statute Breach to be Clear
Damages were to be awarded against a Local Authority for breach of statutory duty in a care case only if the statute was clear that damages were capable of being awarded. in the ordinary case a breach of statutory duty does not, by itself, give rise . .
CitedDunlop v Woollahra Municipal Council PC 1982
A plaintiff can allege misfeasance in public office against a body such as a local authority or a government ministry. The tort was well establshed. . .
CitedDavis v Radcliffe PC 5-Apr-1990
(Isle of Man) Misfeasance in public office.
Held: No duty of care was owed by financial regulators towards investors. . .
CitedYuen Kun-Yeu v Attorney-General of Hong Kong PC 1987
(Hong Kong) The claimant deposited money with a licensed deposit taker, regulated by the Commissioner. He lost his money when the deposit taker went into insolvent liquidation. He said the regulator was responsible when it should have known of the . .
CitedCalveley v Chief Constable of the Merseyside Police HL 1989
Police officers brought an action in negligence against a Chief Constable on the ground that disciplinary proceedings against them had been negligently conducted. They claimed that the investigating officers had negligently failed to conduct the . .
CitedJones v Swansea City Council CA 1990
The defendant council had originally resolved in favour of allowing the plaintiff to use premises leased to her by the council as a club; the plaintiff’s husband was at that time a member of the majority group on the council; there was then an . .
CitedRegina v Bowden (T) CACD 24-Feb-1995
The defendant, a maintenance manager, was accused of misconduct in public office. He had caused works to be carried out by other employees of the local authority on premises occupied by a friend when such works were not required under the . .
CitedJones v Swansea City Council HL 2-Jan-1990
The case concerned the reversal at a council meeting of a decision taken under different political control. The principal complaint centred on two councillors but it was that all 28 members of that Labour group who took part in that decision had . .
CitedMayor of Bradford v Pickles HL 29-Jul-1895
The plaintiffs sought an injunction to prevent the defendant interfering with the supply of water to the city. He would have done so entirely by actions on his own land.
Held: The plaintiffs could have no property in the water until it came on . .
CitedAllen v Flood HL 14-Dec-1898
Tort of Malicicious Inducement not Committed
Mr Flood had in the course of his duties as a trade union official told the employers of some ironworkers that the ironworkers would go on strike, unless the employers ceased employing some woodworkers, who the ironworkers believed had worked on . .
CitedRacz v Home Office HL 17-Dec-1993
The Home Office can be liable for the actions of prison officers which amounted to an official misfeasance. The principles of vicarious liability apply as much to misfeasance in public office as to other torts involving malice, knowledge or . .
CitedHarman v Tappenden 1801
Allegation of abuse of power by judge.
Held: An action does not lie against individuals for acts erroneously done by them in a corporate capacity, from which detriment happens to the plaintiff; at least not without proof of malice. . .
CitedAckerley v Parkinson 23-Jan-1815
Abuse of power by judge . .
CitedBourgoin SA v Minister of Agriculture Fisheries and Food CA 1985
The plaintiffs were French producers of turkeys. They alleged that the Minister revoked their licence to import turkeys into this country by a decision that was ultra vires and motivated by a desire to assist British turkey producers, and that this . .
CitedLonrho Ltd v Shell Petroleum Co Ltd (No 2) HL 1-Apr-1981
No General Liability in Tort for Wrongful Acts
The plaintiff had previously constructed an oil supply pipeline from Beira to Mozambique. After Rhodesia declared unilateral independence, it became a criminal offence to supply to Rhodesia without a licence. The plaintiff ceased supply as required, . .
CitedCullen v Morris 1819
. .
See alsoThree Rivers District Council and others v Bank of England CA 2-Oct-1997
Summary of joint judgment. . .
CitedTaylor v Nesfield 1854
Misuse of position by judge . .
CitedAllen v Flood HL 14-Dec-1898
Tort of Malicicious Inducement not Committed
Mr Flood had in the course of his duties as a trade union official told the employers of some ironworkers that the ironworkers would go on strike, unless the employers ceased employing some woodworkers, who the ironworkers believed had worked on . .
CitedTozer v Child 1857
. .
CitedBarnard v Restormel Borough Council CA 6-Feb-1998
The council appealed a refusal to strike out the proceedings. The claimant alleged misfeasance in a planning decision giving a competitor consent to development. He said the mayor had deceived the planning committee as to the need to consider the . .

Cited by:
CitedAttorney General’s Reference (No 3 of 2003) CACD 7-Apr-2004
Police Officers had been acquitted of misconduct in public office. They had stood by in a police station custody suite as a prisoner lay on the floor and died.
Held: The trial took place before R -v- G which had overruled Caldwell. The . .
CitedRachmaninoff and Others v Sotheby’s and Another QBD 1-Mar-2005
The defendant had offered for sale by auction recently discovered works of Rachmaninoff. The claimants, descendants of the composer asserted ownership through his estate. The defendants refused to identify the seller.
Held: The claim should . .
CitedHilda Amoo-Gottfried v Legal Aid Board (No 1 Regional Committee) CA 1-Dec-2000
The claimant appealed an order dismissing her claim for misfeasance in public office by the defendant, for the way in which they had mishandled her membership of duty solicitor rota schemes.
Held: The court discussed the requirements for . .
CitedSeray-Wurie v The Charity Commission of England and Wales QBD 23-Apr-2008
The defendant sought an order to strike out the claimant’s allegations of defamation and other torts. The defendants claimed qualified privilege in that the statements complained of were contained in a report prepared by it in fulfilment of its . .
CitedNolan v Wright ChD 26-Feb-2009
The defendant sought to re-open the question of whether the charge under which he might otherwise be liable was an extortionate credit bargain. The creditor said that that plea was time barred. The defendant argued that a finding that the agreement . .
CitedMuuse v Secretary of State for The Home Department CA 27-Apr-2010
The claimant, a Dutch national, was detained pending deportation. He was arrested ‘for immigration’ after being given bail in other proceedings. It had been found that that detention was unlawful. He did not come within the criteria for deportation, . .
CitedHowarth v Gwent Constabulary and Another QBD 1-Nov-2011
The claimant alleged malicious prosecution and misfeasance in public office against the defendant. He had been charged with perverting the course of justice. He had worked for a firm of solicitors specialising in defending road traffic prosecutions. . .
CitedHouchin v Lincolnshire Probation Trust QBD 9-Apr-2013
The defendant sought to have the claim struck out. The prisoner said that the defendant’s probation officer had through misfeasance in public office arranged for his transfer back to secure conditions from open ones. The parole board panel had found . .
See AlsoThree Rivers District Council and Others v Governor and Company of The Bank of England (No 3) HL 22-Mar-2001
Misfeasance in Public Office – Recklessness
The bank sought to strike out the claim alleging misfeasance in public office in having failed to regulate the failed bank, BCCI.
Held: Misfeasance in public office might occur not only when a company officer acted to injure a party, but also . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Litigation Practice, Administrative, European, Torts – Other

Leading Case

Updated: 01 November 2021; Ref: scu.89888