Skip to main content Accessibility help


  • James Goudkamp and Mimi Zou


IN Hounga v Allen [2014] UKSC 47; [2014] 1 W.L.R. 2889, the Supreme Court unanimously upheld a claim in the statutory tort of discrimination by a woman who had been dismissed from her employment. The fact that the woman had been working in breach of immigration laws did not enliven the illegality defence. Hounga is one of several recent cases in which the illegality defence has been examined at the ultimate appellate level, the other decisions being Gray v Thames Trains Ltd [2009] UKHL 33; [2009] 1 A.C. 1339, Stone & Rolls Ltd v Moore Stephens [2009] UKHL 39; [2009] A.C. 1391, and Les Laboratoires Servier v Apotex Inc [2014] UKSC 55; [2014] 3 W.L.R. 1257. The fact that the defence has been considered so frequently as of late at the apex level seems to confirm that the Law Commission was wrong in its prediction, made shortly after Gray and Moore Stephens were decided, that the defence would be brought into a satisfactory state if responsibility for reforming it was left to the courts (The Illegality Defence (Law Com 320, 2010), at [3.37]–[3.41]). We are not alone in holding this view. Writing extra-judicially, Lord Mance and Lord Sumption have called for the Law Commission to re-examine the defence (J. Mance, “Ex Turpi Causa – When Latin Avoids Liability” (2014) 18 Edinburgh Law Review 175, 192; J. Sumption, “Reflections on the Law of Illegality” (2012) 20 Restitution Law Review 1, 8–12). We argue here that Hounga perpetuates (and possibly aggravates) the difficulties from which this area of law suffers.


Corresponding author

*Address for correspondence:Keble College, Oxford OX1 3PG. Email:
**Address for correspondence: Faculty of Law, Chinese University of Hong Kong. Email:
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

The Cambridge Law Journal
  • ISSN: 0008-1973
  • EISSN: 1469-2139
  • URL: /core/journals/cambridge-law-journal
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed