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 UKHL 15,(2001) LGR 278,(2001) 1 WLR 655,(2001) ICR 408., House of Lords - Jane McNeill QC
Police had not aided a council to perform an unlawful act under s.33(1) Race Relations Act 1976 where they had supplied information to the council and had not been party to, or involved in, the making of the council's decision which had been found to be unlawful under the Act. However, it did not follow that where a party gave information to another on which that other relied in performing an unlawful discriminatory act that the first party could never be liable under s.33(1) of the Act.
Appeal against a decision by the Court of Appeal on 10 December 1999 that the appellants had not established liability for discrimination against the police and that the police were not liable to the appellants in damages. The police had passed inaccurate information to the council concerning a connection between the appellants, who had hired a hall for a wedding, and gypsies. The council then imposed conditions on the appellants concerning the use of the premises hired and the contract was repudiated. The appellants successfully brought proceedings for damages against the council for breach of contract and unlawful discrimination. There was no appeal against those findings. They also brought proceedings against the police under s.33(1) Race Relations Act 1976 for aiding the council to discriminate by passing information to the council. The Court of Appeal found that the police had undoubtedly aided the council but dismissed the claim on the ground that the police officers had not been shown to have the knowledge required for liability under s.33(1) of the 1976 Act. The police were granted leave by the court to challenge the finding that they had aided the council to do an unlawful act in denying the appellants use of rooms on the terms that would have been available to non-gypsies, thereby treating the appellants less favourably on racial grounds. The issue before the court was whether the police had aided the council to do that unlawful act.
HELD: (1) The opinion of the House of Lords in this case should be read in conjunction with the decision in Anyanwu & Anor v South Bank Student Union & Ors (2001) LTL 22/3/2001 which was heard immediately before this case. The opinion in Anyanwu (supra) considered the effect of s.33(1) of the Act and the meaning of the word "aids" in that subsection. Aiding required a much closer involvement in the actual act of the principal than encouraging, inducing, causing or procuring. (2) The trial judge was commended for finding that whilst the police officers in question had undoubtedly aided the council by providing them with information that finding was not enough to show that they had knowingly aided the council to do an act made unlawful under the legislation, as required by s.33(1) of the Act. Aid to another to do the unlawful act in question had to be shown. The trial judge found that the appellants had failed to show that the police officers had aided the council to do the unlawful act because they had not been party to or involved in the making of the council's decision. There were a number of different ways in which the council could have responded to the information, including lawful ways. The police had been friendly and cooperative in providing the information, but s.33 of the Act required more than a general attitude of helpfulness and cooperation. The judge's decision had been open to him on the evidence and the court would not interfere with his finding. (3) It did not follow that where a party who gave information to another on which that other relied in doing an unlawful discriminatory act could never be liable under s.33(1) of the Act. The outcome of such cases would turn on the facts properly found. (4) In light of these conclusions, it was unnecessary to address the issue argued before the lower court about the extent of knowledge required by someone aiding an unlawful act for that person to be liable under s.33(1) of the Act. That issue was left to be decided when it arose.