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Chandler v DPP

[1964] AC 763

Case summary last updated at 05/02/2020 10:21 by the Oxbridge Notes in-house law team.

Judgement for the case Chandler v DPP

Some CND activists tried to disrupt activities at Wethersfield RAF base, thus entering a “prohibited place” under s.3 of the Official Secrets Act and under s.1, breaching that place for a purpose prejudicial to the security of the state. The judge refused to allow defence council to show evidence or x-examination that would show that the protestors’ purpose would in fact improve the country’s security (since the presence of the RAF base, which allowed American planes to pass through, in their view, made Britain a target for USSR).

HL held that this was the right thing to do , since the question was not whether the purpose was good or bad for the state but whether it harmed the interests of the crown: clearly it is against the crown’s interest for people to disrupt its arrangements of the armed forces (Lord Devlin).
This is not what s.1 says- that the act has to be for a purpose prejudicial to the interests of the state. Logically the defendants ought to be able to argue that their act wasn’t prejudicial to the state. It is POLICY that dictates otherwise: we ought to say, contrary to Lord Devlin, that it IS for the sec state to determine what is in the crown’s interests, lest we drag judges into political discussions e.g. does the HL agree that American air force presence keeps us safe: inappropriate for a court to answer. Devlin’s argument is to say that the act says state when it really means crown and that it is against the crown’s interest to have its airfield immobilised since this precludes it from carrying out policies. This reasoning is bad since the protestors would argue that it is in the interests of the crown just as much as anyone else that the country should avoid nuclear war. Devlin says what he actually means later on: that the policy is of an elected government and people shouldn’t be able to stop it because they dislike it.

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