X Ltd and Y Ltd v United Kingdom: ECHR 1982

The Commission considered the common law offence of blasphemous libel as an offence defined under common law rather than statute law.
Held: ‘The Commission considers that the same principles also apply to the interpretation and application of the common law. Whilst this branch of the law presents certain particularities for the very reason that it is by definition law developed by the courts, it is nevertheless subject to the rule that the law making function of the courts must remain within reasonable limits. In particular in the area of the criminal law it is excluded, by virtue of Article 7(1) of the Convention, that any acts not previously punishable should be held by the courts to entail criminal liability, or that existing offences should be extended to cover facts which previously clearly did not constitute a criminal offence. This implies that constituent elements of an offence such as e.g. the particular form of culpability required for its completion may not be essentially changed, at least not to the detriment of the accused, by the case law of the courts. On the other hand it is not objectionable that the existing elements of the offence are clarified and adapted to new circumstances which can reasonably be brought under the original concept of the offence.’


(1982) 28 DR 77

Cited by:

CitedGoldstein, Rimmington v Regina CACD 28-Nov-2003
Two defendants appealed in respect of alleged offences under common law of causing a public nuisance. One had sent race hatred material, and the other bomb hoaxes, through the post. Both claimed that the offence was so ill defined as to be an . .
CitedRegina v Rimmington; Regina v Goldstein HL 21-Jul-2005
Common Law – Public Nuisance – Extent
The House considered the elements of the common law offence of public nuisance. One defendant faced accusations of having sent racially offensive materials to individuals. The second was accused of sending an envelope including salt to a friend as a . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Human Rights, Defamation

Updated: 16 May 2022; Ref: scu.188886