Davidson v Scottish Ministers (No.2) [2004]

English Constitutional Law

Davidson v Scottish Ministers (No.2) [2004]
‘The Prisoner’ by Vladimir Makovsky

The pollution of judicial impartiality was an issue raised by a prison inmate when campaigning for a transfer on grounds of Convention rights and when faced with a verdict that ran contrary to his calculated expectations.

While serving sentence in HMP Barlinnie, Scotland, the appellant took issue with the prison when complaining that his living conditions ran counter to his rights under art.3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) (Prohibition of torture) which explained that:

“1. No one shall be held in slavery or solitude.

2. No one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour.

3. For the purpose of this Article the term “forced or compulsory labour” shall not include:

(a) any work required to be done in the ordinary course of detention imposed according to the provisions of Article 5 of this Convention or during conditional release from such detention;

(b) any service of a military character or, in case of conscientious objectors in countries where they are recognised, service exacted instead of compulsory military service;

(c) any service exacted in case of an emergency or calamity threatening the life or well-being of the community;

(d) any work or service which forms part of normal civic obligations.”

And so citing he was justified a transfer to a more suitable prison, the appellant raised a petition and an order for specific performance under a claim for damages, while further requesting that the respondents personally arrange for his transfer and compensation.

In the first instance the Court of Session refused to issue orders against them on grounds that s.21(a) of the Crown Proceedings Act 1947 explained that:

“(a)where in any proceedings against the Crown any such relief is sought as might in proceedings between subjects be granted by way of injunction or specific performance, the court shall not grant an injunction or make an order for specific performance, but may in lieu thereof make an order declaratory of the rights of the parties…”

However the court denied such an order while the Extra Division followed suit for the same reasons before the appellant was again denied recourse before the House of Lords until the appellant discovered that one of the presiding judges (Hardie LJ) had been involved in the amendment of the 1947 Act while serving as Lord Advocate, and that his presence contributed to the inclusion of Scottish Ministers when protecting members of the Crown under s.38(2), which stated that:

“”Civil proceedings’’ includes proceedings in the High Court or the county court for the recovery of fines or penalties, but does not include proceedings on the Crown side of the King’s Bench Division;…’’Officer’’, in relation to the Crown, includes any servant of His Majesty, and accordingly (but without prejudice to the generality of the forgoing provision includes a Minister of the Crown and a member of the Scottish Executive.”

Thus the appellant alleged ‘actual bias’ within the reclaim hearing and sought a re-trial under the rule of law for the purposes of objectivity and equity, whereupon the House of Lords referred to Porter v Magill in which they had held that:

“The question is whether the fair-minded and informed observer, having considered the facts, would conclude that there was a real possibility that the tribunal was biased.”

And so after careful examination of the actual degree to which Lord Hardie had been involved in the amending of the statute, the House dismissed the appeal on grounds that the origins of that particular legislative change had stemmed directly from the mind of Donald Stewart MP who was at the time the Secretary of State for Scotland, and that Lord Hardie had merely been representative of those actions within his professional capacity, while clarifying for the parties that:

“[A] risk of apparent bias is liable to arise where a judge is called upon to rule judicially on the effect of legislation which he or she has drafted or promoted during the parliamentary process.”

Specific Performance

Insight | May 2017

Specific Performance
Image: ‘The Contract’ by Fritz Wagner

Under the law of contract there are times when two parties can no longer honour their agreement and at which point one of them is left wanting. In some instances the award of monetary damages is enough to provide remedy, however there are also those where the loss is irreplaceable. On those occasions the court can legally impose a duty on those no longer willing (or seemingly able) to perform the task they originally contracted to undertake. While in certain cases the source of non-performance can also stem from frustration the criteria here is one of general breakdown of communication or even unresolvable conflict that while perhaps entirely warranted on the part of the negator, leaves the claimant with no other option than to sue.

Once agreed upon, an order for specific performance will comprise two elements (i) declaration of the order and (ii) provision of consequential detections to that effect. It is also important to note that where a contractual breach is only anticipated the court can still require specific performance or provide injunctive measures, as was outlined by Lord Tucker in Hasham v Zenab:

“In equity all that is required is to show circumstances which will justify the intervention by a court of equity. The purchaser has an equitable interest in the land and could get an injunction to prevent the vendor disposing of the property.”

On this occasion the potential vendor immediately tore up a signed contract for sale of land after learning that the acreage was greater in the conveyance than as she had orally agreed. The language barrier between the two parties thus prevented clear understanding of what was at stake; and so left with a collapsed purchase the buyer sought specific performance prior to the completion date, upon which the court pondered its feasibility before dismissing the claim upon grounds of falsified evidence on both sides.

A positive example of specific performance can however be found in Rosesilver v Paton where a purchaser entered into a contract to acquire residential property, after which the vendor argued that the terms of the agreement relied on reimbursement of the part-purchase payments upon winning their two pending litigation cases, therefore the intention to sell was implied at the outset. Having examined the inconsistency of the vendor’s argument the judge dismissed additional claims of fiduciary breach and undue influence on a lack of cohesive evidence before ruling that the sale must now be completed. When reaching summary judgement Mann J concluded:

“I do not consider that Mr Paton has advanced a sufficiently clear and plausible case for saying that there was any form of binding (in any sense) arrangement, contemporaneously with the contract and its variation, which would restrict or restrain the enforcement of the contract.”

There are of course a number of factors that can hinder the ability to undertake a contract of engagement and these can range from disability and illness, personal conflict, mistrust based upon recent behaviour and costly supervision to enforce the performance. Likewise a failure to seek remedy for a protracted period can also work against a claimant as the negator could claim estoppel under the doctrine of laches. Ultimately though the choice to pursue specific performance will always run with an attached risk of further complications, as the inherent trust between contracting parties will have been irreversibly eroded once litigation commences; therefore financial damages should never be ruled out unless all other options have been exhausted.

Borman v Griffith (1928)

English Property Law

Borman v Griffith
‘Pathway of Life’ by Connie Tom

Implication by way of contract, is argued in a case involving the conflict of interests between two tenants and a perhaps disorganised and rushed grant of occupancy by the landlord.

In a time immediately before the Law of Property Act 1925, a landowner sought to let out a part of his estate for a determined period. Under the terms of the lease there was at the time, a gravelled road that passed by the tenant’s rented property named ‘The Gardens’, while leading to the door of the main estate property named ‘The Hall’.

At the time the tenant began his residence, there was also an unfinished bridleway that allowed for access to the rear of the Gardens, albeit given no mention within the contract, nor any reliable evidence that use of the drive had been orally agreed between the two parties. During this period, and shortly after taking occupancy of the Gardens, the Hall was leased to another occupier, with no issues arising between them.

A few years afterwards, this same tenant vacated the Hall, and so the landowner let it out to another party for a fixed period, after which the occupier of the Gardens continued to use the gravelled drive as a means of access to the front of his property, as he had since his lease began. Two years after taking up residency, the defendant in this case erected a wire fence to prevent the claimant and tenant of the Gardens from using the gravelled drive as a means of access, hence resulting in litigation.

Relying upon the wording of s.62(1) of the 1925 Act, and the fact that there had never been any other suitable means of access to his home, the claimant argued that an easement by way of implication had been granted by the landlord. When considered by the court, the facts determined that there was a clear difference between the granting of a lease and the conveyance of interest in land or property; and that in this instance the former applied.

There was however, the principle that under the terms of the contract there could be argued, an obligation to undertake full performance of the rights bestowed the claimant, where unless the contract provides specific exclusion of a right of way between two sharing tenants, the gravelled drive afforded both users equal powers to enforce their rights. It was on these grounds that the judge endorsed the action and awarded accordingly, while holding that:

“[A] grantor of property, in circumstances where an obvious, i.e., visible and made road is necessary for the reasonable enjoyment of the property by the grantee, must be taken prima facie to have intended to grant a right to use it.”