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
Full case nameThree Rivers District Council v Governor and Company of The Bank of England
Citation(s)[2000] 3 CMLR 205
Transcript(s) Full text of decision from
Court membership
Judge(s) sitting Lord Steyn
Lord Hope of Craighead
Lord Hutton
Lord Hobhouse of Wood-borough
Lord Millett

Three Rivers DC v Governor of the Bank of England [2001 UKHL 16] [3] 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.



Depositors in the UK branch of Bank of Credit and Commerce International (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 rights to individual depositors.

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

The depositors had to base their claim on the intentional tort of misfeasance in public office because in English law, it was not possible for the regulatory authority to be held liable for negligence in the exercise of its supervisory functions. [4]


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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  1. Allott, Philip (March 2001). "EC Directives and Misfeasance in Public Office". The Cambridge Law Journal . 60 (1): 5. Retrieved 25 August 2021. "Following the approach of Clarke J. at first instance, the House decided that, when there is no actual intention to injure a particular plaintiff, it need not be shown that the public officer must have foreseen that his action would cause damage to any particular person, if he should have known that his action would probably injure the plaintiff or a person of a class of which the plaintiff was a member.
  2. 1 2 Wilson, Gary (2019). English Legal System. United Kingdom: Pearson. ISBN   9781292253732. Its [Hansard] use was extended in Three Rivers DC v Bank of England [1996] 2 All ER 363 to cover situation where legislation itself is not ambiguous but might be ineffective in its intention to give effect to EC directives, and reference to Hansard may assist in determining the provision's actual purpose.
  3. House of Lords, Three Rivers District Council v. Governor and Company of The Bank of England [2001 UKHL 16; [2001] 2 All ER 513 (22nd March, 2001)
  4. Three Rivers District Council v. Governor and Company of The Bank of England [2001] UKHL 16 at para. 179, [2001] Lloyds Rep Bank 125, (2001) 3 LGLR 36, [2003] 2 AC 1, [2001] 2 All ER 513, [2001] Lloyd's Rep Bank 125, [2001] UKHL 16(2001), UKHL