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Anson's Law of Contract

Anson's Law of Contract (31st edn)

Jack Beatson FBA, Andrew Burrows FBA, QC (Hon), and John Cartwright
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date: 21 July 2024

p. 40511. Illegalitylocked

p. 40511. Illegalitylocked

  • Jack Beatson, Jack Beatsonis a former Lord Justice of Appeal and Rouse Ball Professor of English Law, University of Cambridge; and is a Visiting Professor, University of Oxford
  • Andrew BurrowsAndrew Burrowsis Professor of the Law of England and Fellow, All Souls College, University of Oxford and (as of June 2, 2020) he has been appointed a Justice of the UK Supreme Court.
  •  and John CartwrightJohn CartwrightEmeritus Professor of the Law of Contract, University of Oxford


This chapter considers what counts as illegality and the effect of illegality on a contract (and consequent restitution). The approach of the Courts to illegality has been transformed for the better, and simplified, by the Supreme Court in Patel v Mirza in 2016. Illegal conduct, tainting a contract, can vary widely from serious crimes (eg murder) to relatively minor crimes (eg breach of licensing requirements) through to civil wrongs and to conduct that does not comprise a wrong but is contrary to public policy. As regards the effect of illegality, where a statute does not deal with this, the common law approach is now to apply a range of factors. A final section of the chapter examines contracts in restraint of trade.

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