Lewis-Ranwell v G4S Health Services (UK) Ltd [2022] EWHC 1213 (QB)

Ex turpi causa The claimant killed three men, was found not guilty of murder by reason of insanity, then sought damages from G4S, the police, the NHS trust and the county council. The argument that his claim should be struck out on the grounds of illegality was unsuccessful: "The law would not be condoning wrongdoing because the jury's verdict means there was none."


The ICLR have kindly agreed for their WLR (D) case report to be reproduced below. For full details, see their index card for this case.  

The WLR Daily case summaries [2022] WLR(D) 227B

Queen’s Bench Division

Lewis-Ranwell v G4S Health Services (UK) Ltd and others

[2022] EWHC 1213 (QB)B

2022 March 9, 10; May 20

Garnham J

Public policy— Illegality— Civil claim— Claimant acquitted of murder of three men by reason of insanity— Claimant bringing civil claim against defendants including for personal injury and indemnity in respect of any claim brought against him in consequence of his violence towards other in days preceding the killings— Defendants applying to strike out claim— Whether defendants entitled to rely on common law defence of illegality— Criminal Procedure (Insanity) Act 1964 (c 84), s 5

The claimant, who had a history of mental health problems and had been arrested on several occasions for various offences, attacked and killed three men in their homes. At trial he was acquitted of murder by reason of insanity and the court, acting in accordance with section 5 of the Criminal Procedure (Insanity) Act 1964, ordered that he be detained in hospital. He brought a civil claim against the defendants, who were two healthcare providers, the police authority and the relevant local authority, for, inter alia, negligence in their treatment of him in the days preceding the killings and seeking damages for personal injury, loss of liberty, loss of reputation and loss of dignity, and an indemnity in respect of any claim brought against him as a consequence of his violence towards others in the relevant period. The healthcare providers and the local authority applied to strike out the claims on the ground of illegality.

On the strike-out application—

Held, application refused. (1) The following points of principle emerged from the authorities: (i) there were two policy reasons for the common law doctrine of illegality as a defence to a civil claim, first, that a person ought not to be allowed to profit from his own wrongdoing and, second, that the law ought to be coherent, not self-defeating, and ought not to condone illegality; (ii) it was not sufficient to exclude liability that the immediate cause of the damage had been the deliberate act of the claimant himself; (iii) the starting point was to determine what acts constituted “turpitude” for the purposes of the defence; (iv) defendants to such a civil claim had to show, as a minimum, that the claimant had been guilty of criminal or quasi-criminal acts (the latter being acts that engaged the public interest); (v) a civil court would not award damages to compensate a claimant for an injury or disadvantage which the criminal courts of the same jurisdiction had imposed on him by way of punishment for a criminal act for which he had been responsible; (vi) the narrower expression of the rule was that a person ought not to recover for damage that was the consequence of a sentence which had been imposed on him for a criminal act; (vii) the wider expression of the rule was that it was offensive to public notions of the fair distribution of resources that a claimant be compensated (usually out of public funds) for the consequences of his own criminal conduct; (viii) the fundamental policy consideration was the need for consistency so as to maintain the integrity of the legal system, as an inconsistency would arise between the civil and criminal law regimes were a claimant allowed to recover damages resulting from a sentence imposed on him for an intentional criminal act for which he had been held responsible; (ix) whether allowing a claim would have been harmful to the integrity of the legal system depended on whether the purpose of the prohibition that had been transgressed would be enhanced by denying the claim, and whether denying the claim might have an impact on another relevant public policy or be a proportionate response to the illegality; and (x) where a proportionality assessment was necessary, it would involve close scrutiny to the detail of the case in hand, including the seriousness of the impugned conduct and its centrality to the claimed breach of contract or duty (para 127).

Clunis v Camden and Islington Health Authority [1998] QB 978B, CA, Hunter Area Health Service v Presland (2005) 63 NSWLR 22, Gray v Thames Trains Ltd [2009] AC 1339B, HL(E), Les Laboratoires Servier v Apotex Inc [2015] AC 430B, SC(E), Patel v Mirza [2017] AC 467B, SC(E), Henderson v Dorset Healthcare University NHS Foundation Trust [2021] AC 563B, SC(E), Grondona v Stoffel & Co [2021] AC 540B, SC(E) and Traylor v Kent and Medway NHS Social Care Partnership Trust [2022] 4 WLR 35B considered.

(2) A verdict of “not guilty by reason of insanity” was unequivocally a verdict that a person was not guilty of the offence charged and thus not criminally responsible for the killings. While the claimant in the present case might well have known the nature and quality of the act that he had been doing, knowledge that it was wrong was an essential element of establishing criminal responsibility and, where that had not been established, the defendants had not established that the claimant bore criminal responsibility for the three killings. Moreover, the disposal in the claimant's case, namely a hospital order and a restriction order under section 5 of the Criminal Procedure (Insanity) Act 1964, was not a punishment for a criminal act but was instead a disposal for public protection made when an insanity defence was made out. While it was possible that the illegality defence could apply in situations where there was no criminal responsibility, to do so there would have to be quasi-criminality, namely conduct that involved knowing wrongfulness and raised similar public interest objections to those prompted by criminality. The defendants in the present case had failed to establish any such conduct. To permit the claim to proceed would not enable the claimant to profit from his own wrongdoing, as wrongdoing implied knowledge of wrongfulness and that had been excluded by the jury's verdict, and nor would the law be condoning wrongdoing because, similarly, the jury's verdict meant that there was none (paras 129, 130, 131, 133–136, 142).

Dicta of Lord Tindal CJ in M’Naghten's Case (1843) 10 Cl & Fin 200, 210, HL(E) applied.

(3) In so far as the defendants contended that the “narrow claim” for heads of loss flowing from the consequences of a criminal sentence was barred as a matter of causation, that contention misstated the test which prohibited recovery of loss which flowed directly from the lawful imposition of a sentence for breach of the criminal law. In the present case, by contrast, there had been no breach of the criminal law and no sentence had been imposed on the claimant, rather the criminal law had imposed certain restrictions made necessary by the claimant’s mental illness. While there would be legal incoherence between the criminal law and the law of tort if a claimant could found a claim on his own criminal or quasi-criminal act, it was not incoherent to permit a claim founded on a third party's negligence if that negligence was the substantial cause of injury or loss, and the claimant's insanity meant that no blameworthiness attached to him. In the present case, it would be a question for the court hearing the substantive action whether, as a matter of fact, it was the claimant's underlying illness that made his detention in hospital necessary, or whether the negligence of the defendants, if such negligence was proved, had aggravated that illness or provided the occasion for that illness to manifest itself as it had done. Furthermore, in considering whether allowing a claim would be harmful to the integrity of the legal system it was necessary to decide whether the purpose of the prohibition that had been transgressed would be enhanced by denying the claim; whether denying the claim might have an impact on another relevant public policy; and whether denying the claim would be a proportionate response to the illegality. The prohibition in the present case was the taking of life, which prohibition was not enhanced by preventing a claim in the present circumstances because the claim flowed from the actions of someone who was insane and not amenable to the rationale of the prohibition. Nor would there be an obvious deterrent effect in having a clear rule that killing a person never resulted in compensation, given that the conduct of a person in respect of whom insanity was proven was unlikely in the extreme to be affected by such a principle (paras 137–140, 142).

Per curiam. While it may well be the case that claims by the three victims or their families could not succeed against the defendants in the present case, they might succeed against the claimant. It would not be incoherent for tort law to regard the claimant as responsible for his actions as, while criminal law provides a defence founded on his insanity, the criminal law demands more of the state before penal sanctions are applied than the civil law does before awarding damages (para 138).

Morriss v Marsden [1952] 1 All ER 925 considered.

Selena Plowden QC and Christopher Johnson (instructed by Clarke Willmott LLP) for the claimant.

Gurion Taussig (instructed by G4S Legal Department) for the first defendant.

Judith Ayling QC (instructed by DAC Beachcroft LLP) for the third defendant.

Andrew Warnock QC (instructed by DWF LLP) for the fourth defendant.

The second defendant did not appear and was not represented.

Catherine May, Solicitor

Referenced Legislation

Criminal Procedure (Insanity) Act 1964 (c 84), s 5


Full judgment: BAILII


  • Unfitness and insanity cases🔍

Date: 20/5/22🔍

Court: High Court (Queen's Bench Division)🔍



  • Alexander Lewis-Ranwell🔍
  • G4S Health Services (UK) Limited🔍
  • Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall Police🔍
  • Devon Partnership NHS Trust🔍
  • Devon County Council🔍

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Published: 23/5/22 12:39

Cached: 2022-06-30 00:48:58