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Twelve Days of Legal Cases

Christmas lights

Francine Ryan, Director of the Open Justice Centre and Senior Lecturer in Law leads us all in her annual festive sing-a-long. 

The festive season is upon us, so I thought I would bring you an alternative Twelve Days of Christmas designed for the inner lawyer in all of us. In a sea of legal cases here are a few Open Justice Christmas gifts!  Don’t forget to sing….

On the first day of Christmas Open Justice sent to me one Snail in a Ginger Beer bottle

Donoghue v Stevenson [1932] AC 562 (HL)

The Snail in the Ginger Beer bottle is probably one of the most iconic images from a legal case. This case established the ‘neighbour principle’ which is the foundation of the law of negligence. Thinking about our neighbours is particularly important at this time of year- Age UK is working hard to make Christmas a little brighter and a little less lonely.

On the second day of Christmas Open Justice sent to me two doves in a dovecot

Northumberland's (Earl) Case (1617) Poph 141, 79 ER 1242

This is a case that dates back to 1617, cases tell us so much about our history, this judgment discusses ownership of wild animals and trespass. So many of us are lucky enough to have our own wild animal (well maybe a dog, or a cat or a tortoise!) and at Christmas the RSPCA reminds us to have a pet friendly Christmas.

On the third day of Christmas Open Justice sent to me Three Rivers

Three Rivers District Council v Governor and Company of the Bank of England [2004] UKHL 48, [2005] 1 AC 610, [2005] 4 All ER 948, [2004] 3 WLR 1274, [2004] NLJR 1727, (2004) Times, 12 November, 148 Sol Jo LB 1369, [2004] All ER (D) 176 (Nov)

This case considers disclosure and legal professional privilege between banks and solicitors. If we think about the themes that connect this case disclosure, rivers and water; the United Nations recognises the importance of Clean water and sanitation for all in SDG 6, in March 2023 the UN held a Water Conference that reiterated the importance of data in this area, CDP runs the only global voluntary water disclosure platform.

On the fourth day of Christmas Open Justice sent to me four appeals

Phelps v London Borough of Hillingdon Anderton v Clwyd County Council, Jarvis v Hampshire County Council, Re G (a minor), [2001] 2 AC 619, [2000] 4 All ER 504, [2000] 3 WLR 776, [2000] LGR 651, [2000] 3 FCR 102, [2000] ELR 499, 56 BMLR 1, [2000] NLJR 1198, (2000) Times, 28 July, [2000] Lexis Citation 3160, 144 Sol Jo LB 241, [2000] All ER (D) 1076

All four appeals in this case raised questions around the responsibility of a local education authority for the provision of appropriate educational services for children at school. SOS SEN is a charity that supports families to help them secure SEN support for their children.

On the fifth day of Christmas Open Justice sent to me five gold horseshoe pins

Howard v Clarke (1888) 20 QBD 558, 52 JP 310, 58 LT 401, 4 TLR 261

This case was brought against a pawnbroker for false imprisonment where the court held that it was matter for the judge not the jury to determine the question of the ‘reasonableness of the pawnbroker’s suspicion’. The Citizens Advice provides guidance on pawnbrokers and how they work for anyone who needs support around borrowing money the Money Advice website has lots of help and guidance.

On the sixth day of Christmas Open Justice sent to me six appeals and six years to bring my claim

A v Hoare and other appeals [2008] UKHL 6, [2008] 1 AC 844, [2008] 2 All ER 1, [2008] 2 WLR 311, [2008] 1 FLR 771, [2008] 1 FCR 507, [2008] Fam Law 402, 100 BMLR 1, [2008] NLJR 218, (2008) Times, 31 January, [2008] All ER (D) 251 (Jan)

Law students know the importance of limitation dates, this case considered the provisions of the Limitation Act 1980. The law sets out deadlines for bringing legal claims and there are different time limits depending on the type of legal case. Anyone who has a legal case needs to know the deadlines by which they can bring a claim before it is time barred. AdviceNow produce valuable guides and legal information for anyone who needs legal help.

On the seventh day of Christmas Open Justice sent to me seven shares in an estate

Swan's Trustees v Swan. 1912 SC 273

This is a Scottish case involving Matthew Swan a baker who died in Paisley in 1890, he left his estate to his wife and his children, there were questions about the trust- disposition and settlement and codicil.

There are important reasons to make a will, every year participating solicitors will write a basic will for free in return for a donation to Will Aid

On the eighth day of Christmas Open Justice sent to me seven Viennettas and one Lyons Maid so that makes eight!

Unilever plc v Lyons Maid Ltd; Birds Eye Walls' Ltd v Lyons Maid Ltd (consolidated) [1984] Lexis Citation 1123

This case considered copyright in packaging of the ice cream confection Viennetta. One of the things noted in the judgment was the popularity of this type of ice cream in winter as well summer. But did you know that Viennetta was launched as a Christmas speciality in 1982 an in 2022 Viennetta celebrated Christmas by releasing the Viennetta Chocolate Yule Log. Other Christmas deserts are available!

On the ninth day of Christmas Open Justice sent to me folk dancing, ballet, poetry, music, painting, sculpture, architecture, dramatic art, and eloquence  

O'Sullivan v English Folk Dance and Song Society [1955] 2 All ER 845, [1955] 1 WLR 907, 53 LGR 549, 48 R & IT 471, 119 JP 484, 99 Sol Jo 526, 166 EG 4

This case was about a claim for exemption from rates in the decision LJ Jenkins said that dancing can rank as fine art and gave a wide definition of what might be included as fine art. The society encouraged people to dance traditional forms of country dance and Christmas is a good time to put on your dancing shoes, if you need any inspiration You Tube has dance songs and choreography.

On the tenth day of Christmas Open Justice sent to me ten promotions

Customs and Excise Comrs v Top Ten Promotions Ltd [1969] 3 All ER 39, [1969] 1 WLR 1163, 113 Sol Jo 568

Betting, gaming and lotteries and the resultant pool betting duty were all discussed in this case. Will we have a white Christmas in the UK in 2023? According to the Online Betting Guide the betting odds are: Edinburgh 2/1, Belfast 7/2, Cardiff 10/1 and London 11/1.

On the eleventh day of Christmas Open Justice sent to me eleven Irish peers

Antrim's (Earl) Petition and Eleven Other Irish Peers [1967] 1 AC 691, [1966] 3 WLR 1141, 110 Sol Jo 924

The Earl of Antrim and eleven Irish peers presented a petition to the House of Lords asking for declaration that they had a right to sit and vote in the House of Lords. The petition was rejected because on the passing of the Irish Free State (Agreement) Act 1922 the right to elect Irish representative peers no longer existed. The House of Lords is the second chamber of UK Parliament, the size of the House and the appointment process is subject to considerable debate.

On the twelfth day of Christmas Open Justice sent to me twelve jurors

The State v Rudolph Baichandeen (1979) 26 WIR 213

This was a case heard by the Court of Appeal of Guyana- the trial began with 12 jurors, one of the jurors was absent the following day so the judge and counsel agreed that the case should continue with 11 jurors. On appeal it was held that it was prescribed in the statutory mandate that ‘in every case the jury shall consist of twelve persons’ and that the judge and counsel cannot decide that a rule that is fundamental to a fair trial is not observed. You can find out more about Jury service here.

So, there you have it- twelve cases with somewhat tenuous links to the 12 days of Christmas! We hope you will forgive the liberties taken.


From everyone who is part of Open Justice a big thank you to all the students and community partners that we have worked with in 2023.

Francine Ryan 

Francine Ryan

Francine is the Director of the Open Justice Centre and Senior Lecturer in Law. 

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