The World’s Supreme Courts were busy during February 2010, and a summary of the cases heard in each of them appears below.


Kirk v Industrial Relations Commission; Kirk Group Holdings Pty Ltd v WorkCover Authority of New South Wales (Inspector Childs) [2010] HCA 1 (3 February 2010) The High Court heard three related proceedings concerning occupational health and safety.

Mandurah Enterprises Pty Ltd v Western Australian Planning Commission [2010] HCA 2 (3 February 2010) This appeal concerned the validity of a compulsory acquisition for the construction of a railway and, in particular, the power of the Respondent to compulsorily acquire land where not all of the land was required for the railway.

Arnold v Minister Administering the Water Management Act 2000 [2010] HCA 3 (10 February 2010) This concerned an appeal by farmers against the replacement of their bore licences with aquifer access licences for the extraction of groundwater on the grounds that the replacement constituted an acquisition of their property on unjust terms contrary to s.51(xxxi) of the Australian Constitution. 


Fullowka v Pinkerton’s of Canada Ltd., 2010 SCC 5 (18 February 2010) This case concerned a miners’ strike, during which a security company had been hired to protect the site and the miners who continued to work.  A striker who had been dismissed set up an explosion on the mining site, which killed a group of miners. The Supreme Court considered an appeal by the murdered miners’ survivors which contended that the security company had been negligent in failing to prevent the murders and claimed damages as such.  The appeal was dismissed.

R v Nasogaluak, 2010 SCC 6 (19 February 2010) The Supreme Court was invited to consider whether the sentencing of a person charged with intoxicated driving and attempt flight from the police should be affected by the fact that the police used excessive force in the arrest and whether the trial judge was correct in reducing the sentence to below the mandated statutory minimum.

R v Beaulieu, 2010 SCC 7 (25 February 2010) Police officers had exceeded the scope of an authorisation to intercept Beaulieu’s private communications since, in the course of placing listening devices in his car, they found a hidden compartment that concealed a loaded firearm, which they rendered unusable and left in the car.  The accused was later convicted of possession of a loaded prohibited firearm and challenged the admissibility of the testimony related to its discovery. 

Although the trial judge found that the search exceeded the scope of authorisation, he did not exclude the evidence on the basis that the police officers did not believe they were exceeding the powers granted to them by the authorisation and had not flagrantly disregarded Beaulieu’s Charter rights. The Court of Appeal had reversed this decision and set aside the conviction, a decision which the Supreme Court in turn reversed, allowing the appeal and restoring Beaulieu’s conviction.

Hong Kong

Nancy Ann Kissel v HKSAR [2010] HKCFA 5 (11 February 2010) Kissel was appealing against her conviction of murdering her husband on the basis of self-defence and provocation. The appeal was restricted to the consideration of cross-examination on matters relating to bail applications, hearsay evidence and the erroneous direction of self-defence, on the grounds that it was reasonably arguable that substantial and grave injustice had been done. Kissel’s conviction was quashed and the Final Court of Appeal ordered a retrial.


Abbeydrive Development Ltd v Kildare County Council [2010] IESC 8 (18 February 2010) This appeal concerned the grant of planning permission to build houses on a site in Ballymore Eustace and the analysis by the Court of the Respondent council’s power to grant such permission.

Mannion v Legal Aid Board & another [2010] IESC 9 (26 February 2010) This was a judicial review appeal against the decision of the Legal Aid Board to assign a solicitor employed by it to the appellant for the purpose of prosecuting her negligence action against the Board. The Supreme Court dismissed the dismissed the appellant’s appeal.

New Zealand

Vector Gas Limited v Bay Plenty Energy Limited [2010] NZSC 5 (10 February 2010) This appeal required the Supreme Court to interpret a gas supply contract that was conditional on the success of the Respondent in separate proceedings.

South Africa

South Africa Maritime Safety Authority v McKenzie (017/09) [2010] ZASCA 2 (15 February 2010) In the context of a contract of employment, the Supreme Court considered whether section 185 of the Labour Relations Act 66 of 1995 creates a contractual right not to be unfairly dismissed.

Standard Bank of South Africa v The Master of the High Court (Eastern Cape Division) [2010] ZASCA 4 (19 February 2010) The Supreme Court considered whether liquidators had sufficiently discharged their duties and acted in the best interests of the creditors.

The Citizen 1978 (Pty) Ltd v McBride (277/08) [2010] ZASCA 5 (26 February 2010) The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal of South African newspaper “The Citizen” against the High Court’s judgment awarding McBride damages in a defamation claim. McBride alleged that he had been defamed by The Citizen as an article had labelled him a murderer and a criminal unsuited for appointment as the Ekurhuleni Metro Police Chief.


Wilkins v Gaddy [08-10914]  (22 February 2010) The District Court for the Western District of North Carolina dismissed a claim brought by a Wilkins, a prisoner, for excessive physical force used against him by Gaddy, a corrections officer, on the basis that his injuries were de minimis.  The Supreme Court found that this approach was at odds with its direction in Hudson v McMillian that “the use of excessive force against a prisoner may constitute cruel and unusual punishment [even] when the inmate does not suffer serious injury”.  Accordingly, the Supreme Court granted the petition and reversed the judgment of the lower court.

Florida v Powell [08–1175] (23 February 2010) The Supreme Court considered the warnings given to the petitioner by police before custodial questioning and whether the petitioner had been “clearly informed” of their rights to legal representation in accordance with the guidelines laid out in the case of Miranda v Arizona.

Maryland v Shatzer [08-680] (24 February 2010) This case was mentioned in a previous UKSC Blog article as being likely to affect the issue of police interrogations once a defendant has requested counsel. 

The facts were as follows: when Shatzer was held at Maryland prison in 2003, a detective tried to question him about allegations, unrelated to his imprisonment, that he had sexually abused his son. Shatzer had invoked his right under Miranda v Arizona (see above) to have legal representation during the interview, at which point the interview was terminated. The investigation was recommenced by another detective in 2006 who again tried to question Shatzer, who was still incarcerated. This time, Shatzer waived his right to legal representation and made incriminatory remarks. Although, pursuant to Edwards v Arizona, there exists the presumption that, once a suspect invokes their right to the presence of counsel under Miranda v Arizona, any waiver of that right in response to a subsequent attempt at questioning is involuntary,the Supreme Court importantly held that Edwards v Arizona did not apply because Shatzer experienced a break lasting more than two weeks between the first and second attempts at interrogation.