Three 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 where he acted with knowledge of, or with reckless indifference to the illegality of the act, or with reckless indifference to the probability of causing harm. The directive placed general duties of supervision on the Bank of England, but imposed sufficiently detailed duties to give rise to private rights.
As to the Rules, the difference between the words of rule 24.2 and rule 3.4(2)(a) (between a test which asks the question ‘is the claim bound to fail?’ and one which asks ‘does the claim have a real prospect of success’) is elusive, but the practical effect of the two rules will often be the same and, in more complex cases, attention to the overriding objective of dealing with the case justly is likely to be more important than a search for their precise meaning: ‘For the reasons which I have just given, I think that the question is whether the [defence] has no real prospect of succeeding at trial and that it has to be answered having regard to the overriding objective of dealing with the case justly. But the point which is of crucial importance lies in the answer to the further question that then needs to be asked, which is – what is to be the scope of that inquiry?’
‘The second principle, which is quite distinct, is that an allegation of fraud or dishonesty must be sufficiently particularised, and that particulars of facts which are consistent with honesty are not sufficient. This is only partly a matter of pleading. It is also a matter of substance. As I have said, the defendant is entitled to know the case he has to meet. But since dishonesty is usually a matter of inference from primary facts, this involves knowing not only that he is alleged to have acted dishonestly, but also the primary facts which will be relied upon at trial to justify the inference. At trial the court will not normally allow proof of primary facts which have not been pleaded, and will not do so in a case of fraud. It is not open to the court to infer dishonesty from facts which have not been pleaded, or from facts which have been pleaded but are consistent with honesty. These must be some fact which tilts the balance and justifies an inference of dishonesty, and this fact must be both pleaded and proved.’
Lord Hope said: ‘Conversely, I consider that if one part of the claim is to go to trial it would be unreasonable to divide the history up and strike out other parts of it. A great deal of time and money has now been expended in the examination of the preliminary issues, and I think that this exercise must now be brought to an end. I would reject the Bank’s application for summary judgment.’
Lord Hobhouse considered the need for a judge always to assess the claimant’s prospect of success: ‘The important words are ‘no real prospect of succeeding’. It requires the judge to undertake an exercise of judgment. He must decide whether to exercise the power to decide the case without a trial and give a summary judgment. It is a ‘discretionary’ power, i.e. one where the choice whether to exercise the power lies within the jurisdiction of the judge. Secondly, he must carry out the necessary exercise of assessing the prospects of success of the relevant party. If he concludes that there is ‘no real prospect’, he may decide the case accordingly. . . Whilst it must be remembered that the wood is composed of trees some of which may need to be looked at individually, it is the assessment of the whole that is called for. A measure of analysis may be necessary but the ‘bottom line’ is what ultimately matters.’

Lord Steyn, Lord Hope of Craighead, Lord Hutton, Lord Hobhouse of Woodborough, Lord Millett
Times 23-Mar-2001, [2001] 2 All ER 513, [2001] UKHL 16, [2000] 2 WLR 1220, [2003] 2 AC 1, [2001] Lloyds Rep Bank 125, (2001) 3 LGLR 36
House of Lords, Bailii, House of Lords
Civil Procedure Rules
England and Wales
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 . .
See AlsoThree 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 . .

Cited by:
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The claimant sought enforcement of a contract restricting the use by the appellant defendant of the initials ‘WWF’ in their trading. The agreement had been reached in settlement of an action for breach of the claimant’s trade mark rights. The . .
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The defendant appealed a summary judgement on the claimant’s claim with respect to her alleged disclosure of details Miss Campbell’s private life. The claimant sought an action for account of profits for breach of the terms of a contract of service. . .
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The applicant sought damages from the council for misfeasance in public office. Protracted litigation had followed his dismissal after he had attempted to bring allegations of misconduct within the authority to the attention of a council committee. . .
CitedLord Ashcroft v Attorney General and Department for International Development QBD 31-May-2002
The claimant was the subject of confidential reports prepared by the defendants which were leaked to newspapers causing him damage. He sought leave to amend his claim to add claims for breach of the Data Protection Act and for public misfeasance. . .
CitedAkenzua, Coy (Administrators of the Estate of Marcia Zena Laws (Deceased)) v Secretary of State for the Home Department, the Comissioner of Police for the Metropolis CA 23-Oct-2002
The claimant sought damages for misfeasance in public office. The defendant had been involved in the release of a person known to be violent from custody, and where he had subsequently killed a member of the claimant’s family. The family appealed a . .
CitedR Cruickshank Limited v The Chief Constable of Kent County Constabulary CA 13-Dec-2002
The claimant had sought damages from the defendant for unlawful interference with contractual relations, and for misfeasance in public office. It now appealed against an order striking out its claim. It claimed that the police had unlawfully abused . .
CitedE D and F Man Liquid Products Ltd v Patel and Another CA 4-Apr-2003
The rules contained two occasions on which a court would consider dismissal of a claim as having ‘no real prospect’ of success.
Held: The only significant difference between CPR 24.2 and 13.3(1), is that under the first the overall burden of . .
CitedKeegan and Others v Chief Constable of Merseyside CA 3-Jul-2003
The police had information suggesting (wrongly) that a fugitive resided at an address. An armed raid followed, and the claimant occupant sought damages.
Held: The tort of malicious procurement of a search warrant required it to be established . .
CitedEquitable Life Assurance Society v Ernst and Young CA 25-Jul-2003
The claimant sought damages from its accountants, saying that had they been advised of the difficulties in their financial situation, they would have been able to avoid the loss of some 2.5 billion pounds, or to sell their assets at a time when . .
CitedChagos Islanders v The Attorney General, Her Majesty’s British Indian Ocean Territory Commissioner QBD 9-Oct-2003
The Chagos Islands had been a British dependent territory since 1814. The British government repatriated the islanders in the 1960s, and the Ilois now sought damages for their wrongful displacement, misfeasance, deceit, negligence and to establish a . .
CitedEquitable Life Assurance Society v Bowley and others ComC 17-Oct-2003
The claimant sought damages against its former directors for negligence and breach of fiduciary duty. The defendants asked that the claims be struck out.
Held: It was no longer good law that directors might leave the conduct of the company’s . .
CitedCriterion Properties Plc v Stratford UK Properties and others CA 18-Dec-2002
The parties came together in a limited partnership to develop property. The appeal was against a refusal to grant summary judgment on a claim that one party had been induced to enter the contract by a fraudulent misrepresentation.
Held: In . .
CitedQuark Fishing Ltd, Regina (on the Application Of) v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Admn 22-Jul-2003
The respondent had failed to renew the claimant’s license to fish in the South Atlantic for Patagonian Toothfish. The refusal had been found to be unlawful. The claimant now sought damages.
Held: English law does not generally provide a remedy . .
CitedChagos Islanders v Attorney-General and Another CA 22-Jul-2004
The claimants sought leave to appeal against a finding that they had no cause of action for their expulsion from their islands.
Held: ‘Exile without colour of law is forbidden by Magna Carta. That it can amount to a public law wrong is already . .
CitedWatkins v Secretary of State for The Home Departmentand others CA 20-Jul-2004
The claimant complained that prison officers had abused the system of reading his solicitor’s correspondence whilst he was in prison. The defendant argued that there was no proof of damage.
Held: Proof of damage was not necessary in the tort . .
CitedCelador Productions Ltd v Melville ChD 21-Oct-2004
The applicants each alleged breach of copyright and misuse of confidential information in the format of the television program ‘Who wants to be a Millionaire’. The defendant appealed a refusal to strike out the claim. It was not contended that no . .
CitedGeorge Wimpey UK Ltd v VI Construction Ltd CA 3-Feb-2005
A land purchase contract had been rectified by the judge for unilateral mistake. A factor had been dropped from a formula for calculating the price.
Held: The judge’s conclusion that the circumstances existed to allow a rectification was . .
CitedDouglas and others v Hello! Ltd and others (No 3) CA 18-May-2005
The principal claimants sold the rights to take photographs of their wedding to a co-claimant magazine (OK). Persons acting on behalf of the defendants took unauthorised photographs which the defendants published. The claimants had retained joint . .
CitedIqbal v Legal Services Commission CA 10-May-2005
The claimant had been a partner in a firm of solicitors. They came to be suspected by the respondent of overclaiming legal aid payments and sums were withheld. For this and other reasons the practice folded, and the claimant became insolvent. He . .
CitedMarks and Spencer Plc v Customs and Excise HL 28-Jul-2005
The claimant had sought repayment of overpaid VAT, and the respondent resisted arguing that this would be an unjust enrichment. A reference to the European Court was sought.
Held: It was not possible to say that the House’s opinion was acte . .
CitedArmstrong v Times Newspapers Ltd and David Walsh, Alan English CA 29-Jul-2005
The claimant sought damages after publication by the first defendant of articles which it was claimed implied that he had taken drugs. The paper claimed qualified privilege, and claimed Reynolds immunity.
Held: The defence of qualified . .
CitedWeston v Gribben ChD 20-Dec-2005
. .
CitedWeir and others v Secretary of State for Transport and Another ChD 14-Oct-2005
The claimants were shareholders in Railtrack. They complained that the respondent had abused his position to place the company into receivership so as to avoid paying them compensation on a repurchase of the shares. Mr Byers was accused of ‘targeted . .
CitedWatkins v Home Office and others HL 29-Mar-2006
The claimant complained of misfeasance in public office by the prisons for having opened and read protected correspondence whilst he was in prison. The respondent argued that he had suffered no loss. The judge had found that bad faith was . .
CitedHenderson v 3052775 Nova Scotia Ltd HL 10-May-2006
The liquidator had sought to set aside a transfer of company property as having been made at an undervalue. The defence was that the buyer had assumed some of the company’s debt in addition, and in effect that it was a preference on other creditors. . .
CitedVibixa Ltd, Polestar Jowetts Ltd v Komori UK Ltd and Another, Spectral Technology Ltd CA 9-May-2006
The claimants sought damages for damage to property alleging breach of statutory duty. The defendant said that the regulations were made under European not English law, and that the Secretary of State did not have power to make regulations under the . .
CitedAdidas-Salomon Ag v Drape and others ChD 7-Jun-2006
The claimants had sponsored tennis players to wear their logo. The respondents organised tennis tournaments whose intended rules would prevent the display of the claimant’s logos. The claimants said that the restriction interfered with their rights . .
CitedAshley and Another v Sussex Police CA 27-Jul-2006
The deceased was shot by police officers raiding his flat in 1998. The claimants sought damages for his estate. They had succeeded in claiming damages for false imprisonment, but now appealed dismissal of their claim for damages for assault and . .
CitedAnsar v Lloyds TSB Bank Plc and others CA 9-Oct-2006
The claimant challenged a decision of the chairman of the Employment tribunal not to recuse himself on a later hearing after the claimant had previously made allegations of bias and improper conduct against him. . .
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 . .
CitedWalsh v Staines and others ChD 26-Jul-2007
The defendants applied to strike out a claim based on an allegation of a fraudulent deceit and conspiracy in earlier proceedings between the parties. It was said that the defendant solicitors had represented that their client had funds to support an . .
CitedBray v Deutsche Bank Ag QBD 12-Jun-2008
A former employee of the defendant bank sued in defamation after the bank published a press release about its results which he said was critical of him.
Held: Where there is a real issue as to whether the words are defamatory of the claimant, . .
CitedD Pride and Partners (A Firm) and Others v Institute for Animal Health and Others QBD 31-Mar-2009
The claimants sought damages after the loss of business when the defendants’ premises were the source of an outbreak of foot and mouth disease. The organism had escaped from their premises via a broken drain.
Held: Much of the damage claimed . .
CitedAlexander-David v London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham CA 1-Apr-2009
The authority was required to provide housing to the minor applicant, but she was too young to hold a legal estate. An equitable lease had been created, and she now appealed against an order for possession having broken the terms of the agreement, . .
CitedImerman v Tchenguiz and Others QBD 27-Jul-2009
It was said that the defendant had taken private and confidential material from the claimant’s computer. The claimant sought summary judgement for the return of materials and destruction of copies. The defendant denied that summary judgement was . .
CitedMexfield Housing Co-Operative Ltd v Berrisford ChD 5-Oct-2009
The claimant appealed against refusal of a summary order for possession of the defendant tenant’s house for arrears of rent. The arrears arose through delay in payment of Housing Benefit, and all arrears had been cleared by the hearing of the . .
CitedL v L and Hughes Fowler Carruthers QBD 1-Feb-2007
The parties were engaged in ancillary relief proceedings. The Husband complained that the wife had sought to use unlawfully obtained information, and in these proceedings sought delivery up of the material from the wife and her solicitors. He said . .
CitedLand Securities Plc and Others v Fladgate Fielder (A Firm) CA 18-Dec-2009
The claimants wanted planning permission to redevelop land. The defendant firm of solicitors, their tenants, had challenged the planning permission. The claimants alleged that that opposition was a tortious abuse because its true purpose was to . .
CitedGold Group Properties Ltd v BDW Trading Ltd TCC 3-Mar-2010
The parties had contracted for the construction of an estate of houses and flats to be followed by the interim purchase by the defendants. The defendants argued that the slump in land prices frustrated the contract and that they should not be called . .
CitedJO1 v Garret and Another QBD 31-Mar-2010
The claimant sought damages against a social worker, alleging misfeasance in public office, and now appealed against a strike out of his claim.
Held: The elements necessary to succeed in such a claim were not made out in the pleadings, and . .
CitedKaschke v Gray and Another QBD 29-Mar-2010
The defendant appealed against the refusal of the Master to strike out the claim in defamation in respect of a post by a third party on his unmoderated blog. The claimant said that the article accused her of an historic association with a terrorist . .
CitedAbbar and Another v Saudi Economic and Development Company (Sedco) Real Estate Ltd and Others ChD 5-Aug-2010
The defendant sought a strike out of the claim in fraud, saying it was an abuse of process, saying that the facts as pleaded were consistent with honest dealing. The claimants said they had been induced to purchase shares.
Held: The request . .
CitedCook v Telegraph Media Group Ltd QBD 29-Mar-2011
The claimant, an MP, complained in defamation of the defendant’s description of his rejected expenses claim regarding an assistant’s charitable donation. The paper pleaded a Reynolds defence. The claimant said that when published the defendant knew . .
CitedSmith and Others v Ministry of Defence QBD 30-Jun-2011
Claims were made after the deaths of British troops on active service in Iraq. In one case the deaths were from detonations of improvised explosive devices, and on others as a result of friendly fire. It was said that there had been a foreseeable . .
CitedSeray-Wurie v The Charity Commission of England and Wales CA 3-Feb-2009
The claimant appealed against the striking out of his claim for defamation in a reort prepared by the defendants criticising his actions as chairman of a CAB. The action had been struck out on the basis of qualified privilege, and the claimant’s . .
CitedCalland v Financial Conduct Authority CA 13-Mar-2015
The claimant appealed against the striking out of his claim of harassment against the Authority who had contacted him in an intended review of pensions mis-selling. They had contacted him once by letter, once by telephone and once by e-mail.
CitedDellal v Dellal and Others FD 1-Apr-2015
The families disputed a claim under the 1975 Act. The defendants now sought summary dismissal of the claim. . .
CitedStocker v Stocker QBD 10-Jun-2015
The claimant alleged defamation by his former wife in a post on facebook. The posting and associatedeEmails were said falsely to have accused him of serious abuse, and that the accusations had undermined his relationship with his new partner.
CitedAli v Associated Newspapers Ltd QBD 27-Jan-2010
The claimant sought damages in defamation, saying that a combination of publications identified him.
Held: Eady J briefly discussed the effect of hyperlinks in the context of a dispute about meaning or reference in a defamation case. . .
CitedGreen v Petfre (Gibraltar) Ltd (T/A Betfred) QBD 7-Apr-2021
Onerous Contract Terms Unclear – Not Incorporated
The claimant said that he had won a substantial sum on the online gaming platform operated by the defendants, but that they had refused to pay up. The defendants said that there had been a glitch in the game. The court faced a request for summary . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Torts – Other, Banking, Civil Procedure Rules

Leading Case

Updated: 10 November 2021; Ref: scu.166154