R v Attorney General for England and Wales

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"R" v Attorney General for England and Wales
Privy Council Appeal No. 61 of 2002
Royal Arms of the United Kingdom (Privy Council).svg
Court Judicial Committee of the Privy Council
Full case name "R", Appellant v. Her Majesty's Attorney-General for England and Wales, Respondent
Decided 17 March 2003 (2003-03-17)
Citation(s) [2003] UKPC 22, [2003] EMLR 499, [2004] 2 NZLR 577
Case history
Prior action(s) Trial judge ruled that "R" had been subject to undue influence and duress when presented with an agreement for hs signature. Court of Appeal of New Zealand REVERSED IN PART by declining to enjoin against publication by "R" but allowing the Attorney-General to seek damages and recompense for breach of contract.
Appealed from Court of Appeal of New Zealand
Case opinions
Judgment of the Court of Appeal of New Zealand UPHELD, their Lordships humbly advised Her Majesty that the appeal should be dismissed. The Attorney-General did not ask for costs.
Case opinions
Decision by Lord Hoffman
Concurrence Lord Bingham of Cornhill
Lord Steyn
Lord Millett
Dissent Lord Scott of Foscote

"R" v Attorney General for England and Wales [2003] UKPC 22 is a New Zealand contract law case, heard by the Privy Council acting as the final court of appeal of New Zealand and not as part of the judiciary of the UK, relating to duress and undue influence.


After the Gulf War, a Special Air Service soldier of the Bravo Two Zero patrol was told to sign a confidentiality agreement or be demoted. He signed. Then he returned to New Zealand. He got a publishing contract for his memoirs, about material in the Gulf War.

The New Zealand Court of Appeal denied an injunction, but allowed an account of profits and an assessment of damages for breach of contract. R appealed to the Privy Council, contending the contract was under duress when he signed, given the threat of demotion. Additionally R contended that the contract was signed under undue influence, given the position of the MOD in relation to him.


The Privy Council advised that the contract was not avoidable for duress. Lord Hoffmann said there was no illegitimate pressure, so no duress. That first element is "pressure amounting to compulsion of the will of the victim and the second was the illegitimacy of the pressure".

In addition, the court reviewed whether a type of relationship existed between the Crown and the Ministry of Defence that raised the presumption of undue influence. The court found that such a relationship had in law arisen but went on to state that, for this presumption to arise, there must be a transaction that requires explanation. They held that this was not a transaction that required explanation.[citation needed]

See also[edit]