Ex Turpi Causa in UK Law

Leading Cases
  • Saunders v Edwards
    • Court of Appeal
    • 13 Mar 1987

    Where the plaintiff's action in truth arises directly ex turpi causa, he is likely to fail, as he did in Alexander v. Rayson, [1936] 1 King's Bench 182; J.M. Allan (Merchandising) Ltd v. Cloke, [1963] 2 Queen's Bench 340; Ashmore, Benson, Pease & Co, Ltd. v. A.V. Dawson Ltd. [1973] 1 Weekly Law Reports 828; and Thackwell v. Barclays Bank plc, [1986] 1 All England Reports, 676. Where the plaintiff has suffered a genuine wrong, to which allegedly unlawful conduct is incidental, he is likely to succeed, as he did in Bowmakers Ltd. v. Barnet Instruments Ltd.

  • Patel v Mirza
    • Supreme Court
    • 20 Jul 2016

    In assessing whether the public interest would be harmed in that way, it is necessary a) to consider the underlying purpose of the prohibition which has been transgressed and whether that purpose will be enhanced by denial of the claim, b) to consider any other relevant public policy on which the denial of the claim may have an impact and c) to consider whether denial of the claim would be a proportionate response to the illegality, bearing in mind that punishment is a matter for the criminal courts.

  • Vellino v Chief Constable of the Greater Manchester Police
    • Court of Appeal
    • 31 Jul 2001

    The operation of the principle arises where the claimant's claim is founded upon his own criminal or immoral act. The facts which give rise to the claim must be inextricably linked with the criminal activity. It is not sufficient if the criminal activity merely gives occasion for tortious conduct of the Defendant.

  • Gray v Thames Trains Ltd and another
    • House of Lords
    • 17 Jun 2009

    It might be better to avoid metaphors like "inextricably linked" or "integral part" and to treat the question as simply one of causation. Can one say that, although the damage would not have happened but for the tortious conduct of the defendant, it was caused by the criminal act of the claimant? Or is the position that although the damage would not have happened without the criminal act of the claimant, it was caused by the tortious act of the defendant?

  • United City Merchants (Investments) Ltd v Royal Bank of Canada
    • House of Lords
    • 20 May 1982

    The exception for fraud on the part of the beneficiary seeking to avail himself of the credit is a clear application of the maxim ex turpi causa non oritur actio or, if plain English is to be preferred, "fraud unravels all". The courts will not allow their process to be used by a dishonest person to carry out a fraud.

  • Tinsley v Milligan
    • House of Lords
    • 24 Jun 1993

    In my judgment the time has come to decide clearly that the rule is the same whether a plaintiff founds himself on a legal or equitable title: he is entitled to recover if he is not forced to plead or rely on the illegality, even if it emerges that the title on which he relied was acquired in the course of carrying through an illegal transaction.

  • Euro-Diam Ltd v Bathurst
    • Court of Appeal
    • 08 Dic 1987

    It applies if in all the circumstances it would be an affront to the public conscience to grant the plaintiff the relief which he seeks because the court would thereby appear to assist or encourage the plaintiff in his illegal conduct or to encourage others in similar acts: see (2)(iii) below.

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Books & Journal Articles
  • Ex Turpi Causa: Reformation not Revolution
    • Núm. 80-5, Septiembre 2017
    • The Modern Law Review
    Seldom has an area of law been so afflicted with uncertainties and contradictions as the illegality defence and rarely have judicial opinions been so sharply divided as in the Supreme Court decisio...
  • The ex turpi causa principle in Hounga and Servier
    • Núm. 78-5, Septiembre 2015
    • The Modern Law Review
    In Hounga v Allen the majority of the Supreme Court employed a test for the application of the ex turpi causa defence involving the balancing of public policy arguments for and against allowing the...
  • Attribution in Company Law
    • Núm. 77-5, Septiembre 2014
    • The Modern Law Review
    In Bilta (UK) Ltd (in liquidation) v Nazir (No 2), the Court of Appeal held that the ex turpi causa defence was inapplicable by refusing to attribute the fraud of the directors and the sole shareho...
    • Núm. 35-1, Enero 1972
    • The Modern Law Review
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Law Firm Commentaries
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