Three Rivers DC v Governor of the Bank of England

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Three Rivers DC v Governor of the Bank of England
Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom.svg
Court House of Lords
Citation(s) [2000] 3 CMLR 205
Preliminary ruling

Three Rivers DC v Governor of the Bank of England [2001] UKHL 16 is a UK banking law and EU law case, concerning government liability for the protection of depositors, and the preliminary ruling procedure in the European Union.

A preliminary ruling is a decision of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on the interpretation of European Union law, given in response to a request from a court or tribunal of a European Union Member State. A preliminary ruling is a final determinations of EU law, with no scope for appeal. The ECJ hands down its decision to the referring court, which is then obliged to implement the ruling.



Depositors in the UK branch of BCCI sought damages from the Bank of England for failing in its supervisory duties. The Bank had granted BCCI authorisation in a way that breached the First Banking Directive 77/780. The government argued that the Directive was not intended to give individual depositors rights.

Clarke J dismissed the action, and the Court of Appeal by a majority (Hirst and Robert Walker LJJ, Auld LJ dissenting) dismissed the appeal.

Sir David Cozens-Hardy Hirst was an English barrister and judge who served as a Lord Justice of Appeal from 1992 to 1999. The Times described him as "one of the leading advocates of his generation".


The House of Lords held that the Directive was only a first step toward mutual recognition of authorisations of member states to credit institutions, and individual depositor protection was not an objective of the Directive. There was no need to refer to the ECJ. The delays and costs of making a reference were great, given the very small likelihood that they would have made a wrong interpretation.

Lord Hope said the Directive did not define a depositor and so did not define the class of persons who might have rights. Article 3(1) obliged member states to require credit institutions to have authority to operate, but BCCI had commenced before the Directive. Articles 6 and 7 did not impose any duty of supervision on national authorities.

See also


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