March 12th, 2019 by James Goudie KC

Causwell v General Legal Council (2019) UKPC 9 concerns whether disciplinary proceedings commenced by a person purporting to do so as agent for the complainant, but without the complainant’s authority, are capable of being made good by ratification by the complainant, or whether they are a complete nullity incapable of ratification. The question turns upon the principles of the law of agency relating to ratification and the true construction of relevant legislation.The Privy Council took as its starting point the general principles applicable to ratification as a part of the law of agency. Lord Briggs cited with approval Bowstead & Reynolds on Agency , 21st edition, 2018, at paragraphs 2-047, 2-058, 2-060 and 2-089.  At paragraph 18, Lord Briggs added that, in the context of the issue of legal proceedings by a purported agent without authority, ratification after the expiry of a relevant statutory limitation period is permitted. This is because, first, ratification relates back to the date of the originally unauthorised act and, secondly, the statutes of limitation do not render proceedings issued out of time a nullity for all purposes.

Lord Briggs also observed, at paragraph 19, that the construction of the relevant legislation needs to be approached from the starting point that, in the absence of the expression of a contrary intention, the ordinary principles would permit, rather than prevent, ratification.

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