British Coal Corporation and others v R [1935] AC 500

Canada; prerogative; former colonial legislatures

(250 words)


The British Coal Corporation, together with four other companies involved in the import of coal, were convicted of unduly restraining the coal industry. Their appeals from the conviction were rejected by the King’s Bench (Appeal Side) of the Province of Quebec.


The companies petitioned for special leave to appeal from their convictions to His Majesty in Council. It was argued by the Crown, objecting the petition, that criminal cases from any Canadian court could not be appealed to His Majesty in Council. The Court had to decide whether the companies were legally entitled have their criminal appeal heard by His Majesty in Council, despite the fact that their case originated in a Canadian court.


The Court found in favour of the Crown. Prior to the adoption of the Statute of Westminster 1931, Canadian legislation could become void if it was found to be in conflict with an Act of the Imperial Parliament; colonial legislatures were also subject to other limitations. However, the 1931 Act introduced changes to the competence of colonial (thus, also Canadian) legislature. The right to appeal to His Majesty in Council is a prerogative by its nature and, as such, it can only be qualified expressly or by necessary intendment. Such a necessary intendment could be ascertained from the British North America Act 1867, namely s.91, which empowered the Canadian Legislature to prohibit appeals to His Majesty in Council in criminal matters. In addition, Canadian legislation expressly and precisely prohibits appeal of this nature.