New judgment: Willers v Joyce & Anor  UKSC 44
20 Wednesday Jul 2016
On appeal from  EWHC 1315.
The Supreme Court’s unanimous judgment specifies the circumstances in which the JCPC can decide that the earlier House of Lords or Supreme Court decision was wrong.
The Practice Statement (Judicial Precedent)  1 WLR 1234 emphasised that, while the Law Lords would regard their earlier decisions as “normally binding”, they would depart from them “when it appears right to do so” and that now applies to the Supreme Court. Subject to established classes of exceptions, the Court of Appeal is normally bound by its previous decisions and a High Court Judge will normally follow previous High Court decisions.
There was no doubt that, unless there was a decision of a superior court to the contrary effect, a court in England and Wales could normally be expected to follow a decision of the JCPC, but there was no question of it being bound to do so as a matter of precedent. There was also no doubt that a court should not, at least normally, follow a decision of the JCPC, if it was inconsistent with the decision of another court that would otherwise be binding on it.
In an appeal to the JCPC that involves an issue of English law on which a previous decision of the House of Lords, Supreme Court or Court of Appeal is challenged, the members of the JCPC can, if they think it appropriate, not only decide that the previous decision was wrong, but also can expressly direct that domestic courts should treat their decision as representing the law of England and Wales.