Young v Bristol Aeroplane [1944]

Young v Bristol Aeroplane Co Ltd [1944] KB 718 CA was an English court case that established the principle that the Court of Appeal is bound to follow its own decisions and those of courts of co-ordinate jurisdiction, except in specific circumstances:
  1. The court is entitled and bound to decide which of two previous conflicting decisions of its own it will follow. This ensures that when inconsistencies arise, the court can choose the more appropriate precedent.
  2. The court is bound to refuse to follow a decision of its own which cannot stand with a decision of the House of Lords (now the UK Supreme Court). This maintains the hierarchical structure of the court system, ensuring that higher court rulings take precedence.
  3. The court is not bound to follow a decision of its own if the decision was given per incuriam, meaning through lack of care, such as where a relevant statute or rule was not considered by the earlier court.

The Human Rights Act 1998 introduced an exception to the Young rule. If a prior decision was contrary to Convention rights, the Court of Appeal is required to give effect to the Convention rights, even if this involves disapplying their own past precedent or precedent from the House of Lords/Supreme Court. This was highlighted in cases such as Culnane v Morris & Anor and Miller v Bull, which involved issues of qualified privilege and time extensions under the Election Petition Rules 1960, respectively.

During the UK's membership of the European Union, the European Communities Act 1972 required the Court of Appeal to follow decisions of the European Court of Justice. Following the UK's departure from the EU, this is now governed by the provisions of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, which adjusts the relevance of EU case law in the UK legal system.

The Court of Appeal considered disapplying the Young doctrine in respect to decisions on interlocutory appeals but ultimately rejected this principle. Additionally, the decision in R v James and Karimi highlighted a scenario where the Court of Appeal chose to follow a Privy Council ruling over a contentious House of Lords decision. In this case, the court preferred the Privy Council's decision in Attorney-General for Jersey v Holley [2005] over the House of Lords decision in R v Smith (Morgan James) [2001] concerning defendant characteristics and provocation under Section 3 of the Homicide Act 1957.

These principles and exceptions underline the flexibility and complexity within the doctrine of precedent, illustrating the careful balance between adhering to established rulings and adapting to new legal standards and human rights considerations.
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