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Poole's Textbook on Contract Law

Poole's Textbook on Contract Law (15th edn)

Robert Merkin QC and Séverine Saintier
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date: 21 June 2024

p. 44611. Illegalitylocked

p. 44611. Illegalitylocked

  • Robert Merkin, Robert MerkinProfessor of Commercial Universities of Reading and Exeter
  • Séverine SaintierSéverine SaintierAssociate Professor in Commercial Law Exeter Law School, University of Exeter
  •  and Jill PooleJill Poole50th Anniversary Professor of Commercial Law and Head of Aston Law Deputy Dean, Aston Business School, Aston University


Course-focused and comprehensive, Poole’s Textbook on Contract Law provides an accessible overview of the key areas on the law curriculum. This chapter examines contracts that are tainted by illegality or otherwise contrary to public policy, and how illegality affects the parties’ positions following the hugely influential Supreme Court decision of Patel v Mirza. A contract may be illegal from the beginning or illegality may arise as a result of statute (for example, express statutory prohibitions). Examples of illegal contracts are those intended to commit crimes or contracts prejudicial to sexual morality. As a general principle, illegal contracts cannot be enforced and benefits conferred in the performance of an illegal contract cannot be recovered. There are some exceptions, however, such as where the parties are not in pari delicto (not equally guilty), or where the claimant can establish his right to the money or property transferred without having to rely upon the illegal contract. This chapter also examine the law’s treatment of contracts in restraint of trade, including exclusive dealing and exclusive service agreements.

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