Crown proceedings

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Actions against the Crown brought under the Crown Proceedings Act 1947. The prerogative of perfection (the King can do no wrong; see royal prerogative) originally resulted in immunity from legal proceedings, not only of the sovereign personally but also of the Crown itself (including government departments and all other public bodies that were agencies of the Crown). It gradually became possible, however, to take proceedings against the Crown for damages for breach of contract or for the recovery of property. The form of the proceedings was a petition of right (not an ordinary action), and the procedure governing them was eventually regulated by the Petition of Right Act 1860. The Crown Proceedings Act 1947 replaced petitions of right by ordinary actions. It also made the Crown liable to action for the tort of any servant or agent committed in the course of his employment, for breach of its duties as an employer and as an occupier of property, and for breach of any statutory duty that is binding on the Crown. It did not affect the presumption of interpretation that statutes do not bind the Crown (see feature Rules and Principles of Statutory Interpretation); nor did it affect Crown privilege.

Formerly, members of the armed forces were unable to sue the Crown in tort for death or personal injury caused by a fellow member of the armed forces while on duty. This right was extended to them by the Crown Proceedings (Armed Forces) Act 1987, but controversially the right was not made retrospective.

Subjects: Law.

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