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Court: High Court

Officer not personally liable if acting ‘bona fide’ within scope of authority

Nerijus Antuzis and Ors v Houghton Catching Services Ltd & Ors [2019] EWHC 843 (QB)

This case discusses a preliminary issue which is relevant to upcoming case, which will discuss the alleged exploitative working conditions of Lithuanian nationals employed at various farms to catch chickens, which were then transported for slaughter and subsequent human consumption. The applicant’s contend they worked extremely long hours and were paid less than the statutory minimum prescribed by the Agricultural Wages Act and the Orders made under it.The preliminary issue to be heard was whether the second and third defendants are personally, jointly and/or severally liable to the claimants for the first defendant’s breaches of contract. The present proceedings do not involve the fourth defendant.Held: The principle in Said v Butt exempts an officer of a company from personal liability for the tort of inducing breach of contract by that company if he is acting “bona fide within the scope of his authority”.Mr Justice Lane confirmed that the focus of the “bona fide” inquiry is on an officer’s conduct and intention in relation to his duties towards the company, not towards the third party (adopting the approach of the Court of Appeal of Singapore in Arthaputra and others v St Microelectronics Asia Pacific Pte Ltd and others [2018] SGCA 17). Thus an officer will not be personally liable if his acts, in his capacity as an officer, are not in themselves in breach of any fiduciary or other personal legal duties owed to the company

Point of law in Assange regarding inferences of mental element, not to be applied too widely in extradition cases

Yolanda Cleveland v USA [2019] EWHC 619 (Admin)

The appellant in this matter is accused of murder as an accessory, following a shooting in the US in February 2008. She is now the subject of an extradition request to the USA.This hearing discussed the Assange decision in detail, considering whether it was correctly decided in relation to assessing the requirement for dual criminality regarding mental element inferences in extradition.The court concluded that the point of law decided in Assange was not relevant in the instant case. It held that the Assange case ‘is solely aimed at preventing a person being extradited and then convicted in the requesting state, on a basis which would not constitute an offence under English law’, and that it should not be applied more widely.As such, where an offence in a foreign state does not include an element (e.g. mens rea) which is essential when establishing criminal liability under English law, that element may be inferred or necessarily implied from the conduct, which has to be established in the foreign jurisdiction.Therefore the judge found that the particulars in this case were sufficient to satisfy both the mental element and conduct element for murder as an accessory. Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed.Alex Bailin QC was involved in this case.

Licence to conduct trial designed to save species on the brink of extinction found lawful

R (RSPB) v Natural England and R(Avery) v Natural England [2019] EWHC 585 (Admin)

The RSPB and Mark Avery brought claims for judicial review to challenge the lawfulness of the grant of a licence granted by Natural England, an executive non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, to conduct a trial into the brood management of hen harriers, a species on the brink of extinction.Held: Appeal dismissed. The judge found that NE had lawfully concluded that the licence was justified under section 16(1)(a) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (“WCA 1981”). They found that the NE’s purpose of the license, to further the conservation of hen harriers, was not inconsistent with the purpose of the Special Protection Areas and that the proposed trial was appropriate and proportionate in order to achieve this objective.