The Crown in its own Courts*

Sir Stephen Sedley

in The Golden Metwand and the Crooked Cord

Published in print February 1998 | ISBN: 9780198264699
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191682766 | DOI:
The Crown in its own Courts*

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The case of M v. Home Office concerned a Zairean asylum-seeker who was sent back to Zaire initially in breach of what the court understood to be the Home Office's undertaking that it would not remove him while his application for leave to apply for judicial review of the refusal of his asylum claim stood adjourned, and then in breach of an injunction granted by the judge in aid of the undertaking, requiring him to be brought back into the jurisdiction. As it happens, it was the Home Secretary who personally countermanded the Foreign Office's arrangements, made in conformity with the judge's injunction, to bring him back again; so that the potentially interesting question of a minister's legal responsibility for breaches of the law by those whom the courts have agreed to regard as his alter ego did not arise. In holding that the Home Secretary was answerable to the court for his contempt in defying its order, the House of Lords importantly reasserted the legal liability of ministers of the Crown for infractions of the law committed by them in office. But the careful path taken in the single fully reasoned speech, that of Lord Woolf, in which the rest of the House concurred, is not the only possible path to the House's conclusion, and this chapter explores another and perhaps broader constitutional and historical road to the same important destination — that of executive government within the law.

Keywords: administrative law; monarchy; United Kingdom; separation of powers; House of Lords; Home Office; executive government

Chapter.  7050 words. 

Subjects: Constitutional and Administrative Law

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