Watkins 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 of misfeasance in public office. The prisoner would be awarded andpound;5.00 nominal damages against the first defendant, but the issue of the claim for exemplary damages against the individual officers was remitted to the judge. The behaviour infringed the claimant’s basic constitutional right of access to the courts: ‘If there is a right which may be identified as a constitutional right, then there may be a cause of action for an infringement of that right without proof of special damage, provided that there is something more than the mere infringement.’
Lord Justice Clarke Lord Justice Laws Lord Justice Brooke
[2004] EWCA Civ 966, Times 05-Aug-2004, [2005] QB 883
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 . .
CitedThree 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 . .
CitedRegina v Secretary of State Home Department, ex parte Leech (No 2) CA 20-May-1993
Prison rules were ultra vires in so far as they provided for reading letters between prisoners and their legal advisers. Every citizen has a right of unimpeded access to the court. A prisoner’s unimpeded access to a solicitor for the purpose of . .
CitedRegina v Lord Chancellor ex parte John Witham Admn 7-Mar-1997
If subordinate legislation cannot be construed in a way that makes it compatible with fundamental rights, it will be declared ultra vires. Rules which disallowed exemptions from court fees to a litigant in person on income support were invalid. They . .
CitedEmbrey v Owen 1851
Parke B said: ‘It was very ably argued before us by the learned counsel for the plaintiffs that the plaintiffs had a right to the full flow of the water in its natural course and abundance, as an incident to their property in the land through which . .
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 . .
CitedSavill v Roberts 1741
The plaintiff, Roberts, was entitled to recover andpound;11 damages in proceedings for malicious prosecution, the defendant having maliciously caused Roberts to be indicted for causing a riot, and Roberts having been acquitted. The andpound;11 was . .
CitedQuartz Hill Consolidated Gold Mining Co v Eyre CA 1883
The court considered whether an action lay without proof of special damage for maliciously presenting a winding up petition.
Held: There was. Though there was no general cause of action for maliciously bringing civil proceedings without . .
CitedFitzgerald v Firbank 1897
The owner of a right of fishing asserted a cause of action without proof of special damage against someone who had polluted the river in which the right was exercised.
Held: A right of fishing was of such a nature that a person who enjoyed it . .
CitedJones v Jones HL 1916
The House described the different origins of libel and slander. Libel was regarded by the Court of Star Chamber not merely as a crime punishable as such, but also as a wrong carrying the penalty of general damages, and this remedy was carried . .
CitedNeville v London Express Newspaper HL 1919
The question was whether, in order to recover damages for the tort which existed, it was necessary to show specific loss.
Held: An action for damages for maintenance will not lie in the absence of proof of special damage. . .
CitedNicholas v Ely Beet Sugar Factory Ltd CA 1936
The plaintiff owned several fisheries and sought damages after the defendant polluted the riner. He was unable to prove any actual loss.
Held: Disturbance of a several fishery was an invasion of a legal right, and in such a case the injury to . .
CitedThe Owners of the Steamship Mediana v The Owners, Master and Crew of the Lightship Comet HL 1900
A lightship was damaged by negligence. The plaintiff harbour board kept a ship ready for emergencies, and consequently the damaged ship was replaced with the spare while she was being repaired. The question was whether the claimant could recover . .
CitedKuddus v Chief Constable of Leicestershire Constabulary HL 7-Jun-2001
There is no rule of law preventing the award of exemplary damages against police officers. The fact that no case of misfeasance in public office had led to such awards before 1964, did not prevent such an award now. Although damages are generally . .
CitedThompson v Commissioner of Police of Metropolis; Hsu v Same CA 20-Feb-1997
CS Damages of 200,000 pounds by way of exemplary damages had been awarded against the police for unlawful arrest and assault.
Held: The court gave a guideline maximum pounds 50,000 award against police for . .
CitedHuckle v Money 1763
An action for false imprisonment brought by a journeyman printer who apparently had played no part in printing the famous issue No. 45 of ‘The North Briton ‘ but had been arrested under a warrant issued by a Secretary of State authorising a King’s . .
CitedRookes v Barnard (No 1) HL 21-Jan-1964
The court set down the conditions for the award of exemplary damages. There are two categories. The first is where there has been oppressive or arbitrary conduct by a defendant. Cases in the second category are those in which the defendant’s conduct . .
CitedOwen and Smith (trading as Nuagin Car Service) v Reo Motors (Britain) Ltd CA 1934
The court made an award of andpound;100 exemplary damages . .

Cited by:
Appeal fromWatkins 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 . .
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 . .

These lists may be incomplete.
Updated: 08 April 2021; Ref: scu.199273