Law Report: Case Summaries

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The following notes of judgments were prepared by the reporters of the All England Law Reports.

Crime

R v Thornton; CA (Crim Div) (Beldam LJ, Ognall, Harrison JJ); 23 May 1994.

Where a defendant admitted that he was present at the scene of an offence but denied being involved in it the judge must give the jury the full Turnbull warning of the special need for caution where the defence was one of mistaken identity.

Antony Braithwaite (Registrar of Criminal Appeals) for the appellant; Robin Denny (CPS) for the Crown.

EU decision

Commission of the European Communities v BASF AC and ors (case C-137/92P); ECJ; 15 June 1994.

A commission decision that the respondents, 12 undertakings dealing in polyvinylchloride, had infringed article 85 of the EEC Treaty and imposing fines was to be annulled as the text of the decision as notified to the respondents contained differences other than of mere spelling and grammar, made by officials and not the college of commissioners, and the decision had not been properly authenticated in two of the official Community languages in which it should have been.

The commission had an obligation to take the necessary steps under EEC law to enable the complete text of acts adopted by the college to be identified with certainty in all the languages that were binding. The Court of First Instance had erred in finding that the irregularities were of such gravity that the decision was to be treated as non-existent: such a finding (which had the effect that a Community act was to be treated as having no legal effect at all, even provisional until it was annulled or withdrawn) was reserved for extreme situations, where the gravity of the irregularity was so obvious that it could not be tolerated by the community legal order; in the present case the commission did decide to adopt the operative part of the decision as set out in the minutes of the meeting, whatever defects affected it.

Insurance

Malhi v Abbey Life Assurance Co Ltd; CA (Balcombe, McCowan, Rose LJJ); 26 May 1994.

Where an insurance company had disclaimed on the grounds of non-disclosure and the deceased's widow claimed that the company had constructive or imputed knowledge of the non-disclosure but had nevertheless accepted premiums, thereby waiving its right to avoid the policy, the provision of information to the insurance company did not necessarily afford to that company knowledge sufficient to found waiver by election. The question whether such knowledge could be imputed to the company depended on the circumstances of the receipt of the information, eg whether or not it had been received by a person authorised and able to appreciate its significance.

Jane Belson (J R Jones) for the appellant; Brian Hurst (N Howe, Bournemouth) for the respondent.

Revenue

Clarke (Inspector of Taxes) v Mayo; ChD (Evans- Lombe); 27 May 1994.

A person aged over 60 was entitled to retirement relief from capital gains tax in respect of the disposal of property of which he was part- owner notwithstanding that the property was not used for the purposes of the relevant business during the month before the business ceased trading. The disposal of the property was an 'associated disposal' in which the words 'immediately before' might mean in the context 'sufficiently proximate'.

Christopher Tidmarsh (Inland Revenue Solicitor) for the Crown; Jonathan Cannan (Powell & Sykes, Kendal) for the taxpayer.

Sentencing

R v Rothery and ors; CA (Crim Div) (Lord Taylor of Gosforth, CJ, Hutchison, Buxton JJ); 17 May 1994.

Ram-raiding, that is using a mechanically propelled vehicle to break into premises for the purposes of crime, had become prevalent and was extremely serious. It was a composite offence involving the theft of other vehicles before the main theft was attempted. It was targeted at a particular prey and involved deliberate planning. Whatever might be obtained or attempted there would almost always be serious damage to property. It was a kind of military operation against security which might be applied to any building and put people to fear. The sentencing judge was not wrong to treat the offences of theft as near as robbery.

Gibson Grenfell QC; Laureen Fleischmann (Registrar of Criminal Appeals) for the appellants.

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