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Cutler v Wandsworth Stadium Ltd; HL 1949

References: [1949] AC 398
Coram: Lord Simonds, Lord Reid
The Act required the occupier of a licensed racetrack to take all steps necessary to secure that, so long as a totalisator was being lawfully operated on the track, there was available for bookmakers space on the track where they could conveniently carry on bookmaking in connection with dog races run on the track on that day. Breach of this provision carried a criminal sanction. A bookmaker who contended that he had not been provided with suitable space brought a claim for an injunction and damages against the operator of the track. His claim succeeded in the High Court but not in the Court of Appeal.
Held: The bookmaker’s appeal failed. There is a general rule of law that where a new statutory obligation is created which at the same time provides a special means of enforcing it, that performance cannot be enforced in any other manner. A law which was not intended to create legal rights and duties would be a mere ‘pious aspiration’. On a proper construction of the particular statute, there was no parliamentary intention to confer private rights of action on bookmakers at a racetrack: the intended enforcement of rights was by means of criminal prosecution.
Lord Simonds said: ‘I do not propose to try to formulate any rules by reference to which such a question can infallibly be answered. The only rule which in all circumstances is valid is that the answer must depend upon a consideration of the whole Act and the circumstances, including the pre-existing law in which it was enacted. But that there are indications which point with more or less force to the one answer or the other is clear from authorities which, even where they do not bind, will have great weight with the House. For instance, if a statutory duty is prescribed but no remedy by way of penalty or otherwise for its breach is imposed, it can be assumed that a right of civil action accrues to the person who is damnified by the breach. For if it were not so, the statute would be but a pious aspiration.’ and ‘As I have mentioned, sub-contractors experiencing undue delay would be able to enforce performance of the Revenue’s duty by an application for judicial review. The absence of a financial remedy for past losses does not deprive the statutory duty of substance.’
Lord Reid said: ‘I find it extremely difficult to reconcile the nature of the provisions of this sub-section with an intention to confer on individual bookmakers rights which each could enforce by civil action. If the legislature had intended to create such rights I would expect to find them capable of reasonably precise definition.’
Statutes: Betting and Lotteries Act 1934 11(2)(b)
This case is cited by:

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    A Local Authority found guilty of a statutory nuisance is not thereby liable for a civil damages suit. . .
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  • Cited – Regina v Deputy Governor of Parkhurst Prison, Ex parte Hague, Weldon v Home Office HL ([1992] 1 AC 58, Times 25-Jul-91, [1991] 3 All ER 733, Bailii, [1990] UKHL 8, [1991] 3 WLR 340, [1992] COD 69, (1993) 5 Admin LR 425)
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