Wed, 29 Mar 2006 15:59:24 -0700
Rights in The House of Lords
can I suppose argue trespass (if the letter was in my possession
at the time); or invasion of privacy (which seems to be an increasingly
a different point, my own view is that misfeasance in a public office
is being watered down by the courts and is beginning to merge into
a tort for breach of statutory duty. I am against the trend that
Odhavji and other cases seem to be encouraging that knowingly
breaching a statutory duty with knowledge that some individuals
are likely to be harmed is sufficient to establish malice or bad
faith to constitute the tort. It seems to be that one can intentionally
refuse to carry out a statutory duty because one feels, for example,
that the harm that is likely to be caused to the plaintiff if one
refuses to perform the duty is less than the harm which would be
caused to others or the public if one carries out that duty. In
the interests of full and complete disclosure, I am currently working
on an article which expressed this view. Thus to the extent that
Watkins v Home Office begins to reign in the tort somewhat,
I am encouraged.
Robert Stevens 03/29/06 4:28 AM >>>
House of Lords have overturned
a decision of the Court of Appeal and held that a prisoner cannot
bring a claim for damages based upon 'misfeasance in a public office'
unless he has consequential loss.
court refused to follow Holt CJ in Ashby v White, where
the denial of a right to vote was actionable in damages without
proof of consequential loss.
wonder if the case was argued correctly. We all of us have a liberty
to correspond with our lawyer. If someone to whom the letter is
not addressed opens my correspondence surely they commit a tort,
regardless of whether they are the holder of a public office? I
have a right not to have my letters opened. Does it matter in my
claim for damages that I have no consequential loss? Of course,
prison officers are given a statutory privilege under the Prison
Rules to open a prisoner's letters, but this privilege is not absolute
and did not cover the bad faith opening of letters with a legal
adviser in the circumstances of Watkins.
depressing failure to take rights seriously in my opinion. (Compare
Lord Bingham at  with Holt CJ in Ashby v White (1703)
2 Ld Raym 938, 955, 92 ER 126, 137.)
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