Practice Statement

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The Practice Statement [1966] 3 All ER 77[1] was a statement made in the House of Lords by Lord Gardiner LC on July 26, 1966 on behalf of himself and the Lords of Appeal in ordinary, that they would depart from precedent in the Lords in order to achieve justice.


Until the year 1966, the House of Lords in the United Kingdom was bound to follow all of its previous decisions under the principle of stare decisis, even if this created "injustice" and "unduly restrict(s) the proper development of the law" (London Tramways Co. v London County Council [1898] AC 375). The Practice Statement 1966 is authority for the House of Lords to depart from their previous decisions. It does not affect the precedential value of cases in lower courts; all other courts that recognise the Supreme Court (formerly the House of Lords) as the court of last resort are still bound by Supreme Court decisions. Before this, the only way a binding precedent could be avoided was to create new legislation on the matter.

A germane example is the case of Anderton v Ryan (1985)[2] where the House of Lords interpreted the Criminal Attempts Act 1981 in such a way as to make the Act virtually ineffective. Only one year later in R v Shivpuri (1986)[3] Lord Bridge (a member of the erroneous majority in Anderton) acknowledged the error and said "the Practice Statement is an effective abandonment of our pretension to infallibility. If a serious error embodied in a decision of this House has been distorted by the law, the sooner it is corrected the better".[4]

By contrast, in Knuller v DPP,[5] Lord Reid, who had previously given a strong dissenting judgment in Shaw v DPP,[6] said while he still disagreed with the majority decision in that case, in the interests of certainty he would not overturn Shaw (even though the Practice Statement had given authority to do so).


This is the text of the Practice Statement:

Lord Gardiner's statement in the House of Lords, July 26, 1966.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ See also [1966] 1 WLR 1234; [1966] 2 Lloyd's Rep. 151; (1986) 83 Cr. App. R. 191 (Note); (1966) 110 S.J. 584
  2. ^ 1985 AC 560
  3. ^ 1987 AC 1
  4. ^ The English Legal System (17th ed) - Slapper v Kelly - ISBN 9 781138 944459
  5. ^ Knuller (Publishing, Printing and Promotions) Ltd. v. DPP [1973] A.C. 435
  6. ^ Shaw v DPP [1962] AC 220