Williams v Fawcett: CA 1985

The court was asked as to the requirement of a notice to show cause why a person should not be committed to prison for contempt of court.
Held: The court refused to follow its earlier decisions as to committal procedures where they were the result of a manifest slip or error. Lord Donaldson MR explained the doctrine of stare decisis: ‘If we are bound by these decisions, and we are unless they can be treated as having been reached per incuriam, they represent a very considerable change in the law for which, so far as I can see, there is absolutely no warrant. The change to which I refer is, of course, a requirement that these notices shall be signed by the proper officer. The rule of stare decisis is of the very greatest importance, particularly in an appellate court, such as this, which sits in six or seven divisions simultaneously. But for this rule, the law would not only bifurcate, it would branch off in six or seven different directions.
That of course has been stressed over and over again. It was emphasised in the classic case of Young v Bristol Aeroplane Co Ltd. [1944] K.B. 718 and in Morelle Ltd. v Wakeling [1955] 2 Q.B. 379, which considered Young’s case. But in each of those cases, as I will demonstrate briefly the court retained the power in an exceptional case to depart from its previous decisions. ‘

Lord Donaldson MR
[1986] QB 604, [1985] 1 All ER 787
England and Wales
Cited by:
AppliedRickards v Rickards CA 1990
The Court of Appeal considered the circumstances in which it could depart from its own earlier decisions under the residual principle. The court refused to follow a previous decision of the same court because, although the relevant House of Lords . .
CitedDesnousse v London Borough of Newham and others CA 17-May-2006
The occupier had been granted a temporary licence by the authority under the homelessness provisions whilst it made its assessment. The assessment concluded that she had become homeless intentionally, and therefore terminated the licence and set out . .
CitedTotal Network Sl v Customs and Excise Commissioners CA 31-Jan-2007
The defendants suspected a carousel VAT fraud. The defendants appealed a finding that there was a viable cause of action alleging a ‘conspiracy where the unlawful means alleged is a common law offence of cheating the public revenue’. The defendants . .
CitedBaxendale Ltd and Another v Revenue and Customs FTTTx 4-Jul-2013
FTTTx PROCEDURE – striking out of proceedings – whether appellants’ case had a reasonable prospect of succeeding – abuse of process – whether Court of Appeal decision in David Baxendale was per incuriam or . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Litigation Practice, Constitutional

Leading Case

Updated: 09 November 2021; Ref: scu.242935