Revill v Newbery [1996] 2 WLR 239

Trespassing - turpitude doctrine


William Newbery (N) slept in a shed on his allotment to protect his property at night. Mark Revill (R) and his accomplice Grainger (G) trespassed onto the allotment and attempted to break into the shed. N fired a 12-bore shotgun through a hole in the shed intending only to frighten R and G, however R was shot. R raised a personal injury action against N for damages. R claimed that N was negligent and in breach of section 1 of the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1984 (the 1984 Act).N invoked the doctrine of ex turpi causa non oritur action (ex turpi causa)that no cause of action can be founded on an illegal act, and alleged contributory negligence of R. The judge awarded damages to R, rejecting the defence of ex turpi causa, and finding that N was negligent in the expected standard of care of a reasonable person in the same situation, and had used violence in excess of the reasonable limits allowed by lawful self-defence. The judge did reduce R’s damages as R’s actions had contributed to his injuries. N appealed.


N claimed that he was not negligent in firing the shot, and that the judge erred in rejecting his defence of ex turpi causa.


The finding of negligence was justified on the facts and N could not rely on the doctrine of ex turpi causa as a full defence to his liability in this context. Under section 1 of the 1984 Act an occupier cannot treat a trespasser as an outlaw and owes a duty to him that the trespasser does not suffer injury on the premises. Denying the plaintiff any fruits from illegal conduct is different to compensating a plaintiff for injury suffered and entitled to claim by law. N’s appeal was dismissed.