Media By: Jo Moore


A Tale of Two Judgments: Scottish Court of Session rules prorogation of Parliament unlawful, but High Court of England and Wales begs to differ

11 September 2019 by

The Scottish Court of Session (Inner House) today ruled that the Prime Minister’s advice to the Queen to prorogue Parliament was unlawful. The High Court of England and Wales today handed down its judgment on the same issue – and came to the opposite conclusion.

How can these two conflicting judgments be resolved? They can’t, so it’s off to the Supreme Court on 17 September.

Before we delve into the decisions of both courts, a reminder of some of the key issues:

Prorogation: The act of discontinuing a parliamentary session, until the State Opening of Parliament which commences the next session. It is unlike recess, which is a break in the parliamentary session when parliamentary business is merely suspended, and MPs can be more easily recalled if required. It is also unlike dissolution, which occurs before an election and mean that every MP must re-stand for election.

When Parliament is prorogued, all business comes to an end. Bills which remain in progress (i.e which have not become law) lapse and must be restarted when Parliament is re-opened.

The Prime Minister decided on 28 August 2019 to advise the Queen to prorogue Parliament. An Order in Council was made that day by the Queen, effecting the Prorogation. Parliament was prorogued on 9 September 2019, and – as it stands – will not sit again until 14 October 2019.

Justiciability: The concept of a matter being susceptible to, and capable of, review by the courts. ‘Non-justiciability’ encompasses a number of principles. In Shergill v Khaira, [2014] UKSC 33 the Supreme Court has distinguished two categories of non-justiciability, (1) issues with no basis in domestic law and (2) issues in respect of which judicial restraint will be exercised, due to the separation of powers and judicial competence. The latter is in issue in these cases. Political questions, and certain matters involving the exercise of the Royal Prerogative, are often argued (and held) to be beyond the reach of judicial review. Recent decisions show that the concept is not absolute, even with regard to prerogative powers.


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Kenyan “Mau Mau” claim dismissed: Fair trial not possible because of half century delay

6 August 2018 by

article-0-0B84CC4D00000578-861_634x400Kimathi & Others v The Foreign and Commonwealth Office [2018] EWHC 2066 (QB) read judgment 

Stewart J has dismissed the first test case in this group litigation, in which over 40,000 Kenyans bring claims for damages against the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office, alleging abuse during the Kenyan Emergency of the 1950s and early 1960s.

The mammoth hearing lasted 223 days, and the judgment accordingly runs to nearly 500 paragraphs. The decision turns on whether the judge should allow the claim to be heard over 50 years after the primary deadline expired.

In personal injury claims, section 33 of the Limitation Act 1980 provides that in certain circumstances, a claim which would otherwise be out of time (“statute-barred”) can nevertheless be heard. The court has a discretion to disapply the usual three-year time limit where it is equitable. This involves balancing the prejudice to the defendant of facing a late claim against the prejudice the claimant will suffer if the claim is statute-barred.

In this test case, Stewart J determined that it would not be equitable to extend time in the claimant’s favour. The severe effects of the passage of time on the defendant’s ability to defend the claim was a crucial factor, particularly due to the depleted cogency of the evidence available, as were the lack of good reasons for the delay, and the very substantial length of the delay itself. This carefully reasoned judgment will provide detailed guidance for the trial of ‘stale’ claims.
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