Sirros v Moore [1975] AC 118;


[1975] QB 118; [1974] 3 WLR 459; [1974] 3 All ER 776; (1974) 118 SJ 661

ADMINISTRATIVE LAW, LIABILITY AND PROTECTION, HABEAS CORPUS, IMMUNITY OF JUDGES, PROCEDURAL IMPROPRIETY, JURISDICTION, DEPORTATION, DETENTION

Facts

Sirros, the plaintiff, was an alien, who visited the UK, who was fined and recommended for deportation for breach of Aliens Order 1953, although the judge ordered that the plaintiff should not be detained pending the Home Secretary’s decision whether he would be deported. The plaintiff appealed to the Crown Court against the recommendation. At the hearing, the circuit judge accepted that the Crown Court had no jurisdiction to hear an appeal against a deportation order and announced that the court’s decision was that the appeal was dismissed. The plaintiff started to make his way out of the court room and the judge asked the police officers to stop him. They found him in the street and brought him back into court. The plaintiff’s counsel submitted that he should not be detained and asked for a bail. The judge refused to grant bail and the plaintiff was taken away in custody. On the next day, the Divisional Court granted the plaintiff a leave to move due to the writ of habeas corpus. Nine days later the Divisional court granted a writ of habeas corpus on grounds that the circuit judge had been functus officio when he ordered the plaintiff’s detention. The plaintiff claimed damages for assault and false imprisonment against the defendants – the circuit judge and the police officers.

Issue

Are judges and police officers acting under their instruction immune from proceedings against them in respect of acts which they mistakenly do?

Held

(1) The circuit judge had jurisdiction to hear an appeal from a deportation order pursuant to ss. 9 and 57(1) Courts Act 1971. Since the judge believed he had not had jurisdiction to hear the appeal, the magistrates’ court order that the plaintiff should not be detained remained intact. Therefore, the plaintiff should not have been detained.

(2) Despite acting mistakenly, a judge and police officers acting on his instruction are immune from liability if the acts complained of are carried out by the judge when he acts in his capacity of a judge and does so in good faith.