Illegal Contract in UK Law

Leading Cases
  • Archbolds (Freightage) Ltd v S. Spanglett Ltd
    • Court of Appeal
    • 15 Dec 1960

    Another effect of illegality is to prevent a plaintiff from recovering under a contract if in order to prove his rights under it he has to rely upon his own illegal act; he may not do that even though he can show that at the time of making the contract he had no intent to break the Law and that at the time of performance he did not know that what he was doing was illegal.

  • Soleimany v Soleimany
    • Court of Appeal
    • 19 Feb 1998

    In our view, an enforcement judge, if there is prima facie evidence from one side that the award is based on an illegal contract, should enquire further to some extent. Or is it a fair inference that he did reach that conclusion? Is there anything to suggest that the arbitrator was incompetent to conduct such an enquiry? May there have been collusion or bad faith, so as to procure an award despite illegality?

  • Colen and another v Cebrian (UK) Ltd
    • Court of Appeal
    • 20 Nov 2003

    But if he does not have to do so, then in my view the question is whether the method of performance chosen and the degree of participation in that illegal performance is such as to "turn the contract into an illegal contract" (see the dictum of Jenkins LJ in B and B Viennese Fashions v Losane [1952] 1 All E R 909 at 913 cited by Scarman LJ in Ashmore Benson Ltd VA v Dawson Ltd [1973] 1 WLR 828 at 836, and the language of para 34 in Hall quoted above).

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Hall v Woolston Hall Leisure Ltd
    • Court of Appeal
    • 23 May 2000

    In cases where the contract of employment is neither entered into for an illegal purpose nor prohibited by statute, the illegal performance of the contract will not render the contract unenforceable unless in addition to knowledge of the facts which make the performance illegal the employee actively participates in the illegal performance. It is a question of fact in each case whether there has been a sufficient degree of participation by the employee.

  • Stone and Rolls Ltd ((in Liquidation)) v Moore Stephens (A Firm)
    • House of Lords
    • 30 Jul 2009

    It was dealing with the effect of illegality on title to property. On the contrary, the House made it plain that where the claim is to enforce a contract the claim will be defeated if the defendant shows that the contract was for an illegal purpose, even though the claimant does not assert the illegal purpose in making the claim - see Alexander v Rayson [1936] 1 KB 169, approved by Lord Browne-Wilkinson at p. 370.

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