• In the case of Joyce v O’Brien 2013 EWCA Civ 546, the principle of ex turpi causa was applicable where the character of a joint criminal effort was such that it was foreseeable that a party to the criminal act could be subject to the risks of harm because of the pursuit of those criminal activities.

Facts of the Case

  • C and D stole a ladder and loaded it into their van with C riding on the back of the van.
  • C fell off the van as they were escaping, and C proceeded to claim damages from D in negligence.

Issues in Joyce v O’Brien 2013 EWCA Civ 546

  • Did D owe a duty of care to C?
  • Did the illegal acts negate the claim in negligence?

Held by Court of Appeal (Civil Division)

  • D not liable.


  • Here, it was held that you cannot recover damages whereby the injuries sustained are of direct consequence of your own criminal acts.
  • “In my view, therefore, applying the principles enunciated by Lord Hoffmann in Gray, and having regard to the joint nature of the criminal enterprise, the judge was plainly entitled to conclude that although the damage may not have occurred but for the negligent driving of the first defendant, it was caused by the criminal activity in which the claimant was engaged. The injury resulted both from his personal conduct in placing himself in such a dangerous position; and because he took the heightened risk of dangerous driving by his uncle and that risk materialised.” [ 47]