Diamond Jubilee – milestone cases as nominated by the LexisPSL team

To celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, LexisNexis asked its LexisPSL team to nominate 10 landmark legal cases that have taken place during Her Majesty’s reign.

The LexisPSL team consists of 75 lawyers who cover a range of practice area from commercial and tax law through to family and crime. We surveyed the team and below are what they consider to be the milestone cases that have had an impact on society. The cases are listed by year.

Milestone cases

R v Penguin Books Ltd [1961] Crim LR 176 – Lady Chatterley’s Lover obscene publications prosecution.

Dyestuffs case (ICI v Commission – 1972) – laying down the fundamentals for proving collusion between companies.

Van Duyn v Home Office [1974] 3 All ER 178 – the first reference to the European Court of Justice by an English court.

Eves v Eves [1975] EWCA Civ 3 – Denning MR creates law of creative trusts out of thin air.

Miller v Jackson [1977] QB 266 – Denning MR waxes lyrical about the joys of cricket – an occasional ball hit out of a ground is not negligence or nuisance.

W T Ramsay Ltd v IRC [1981] STC 174 – the end of the beginning of a revolution in attitudes towards (and the definition of) tax avoidance that has, indirectly, culminated in the pending introduction of a general anti-avoidance rule in the UK.

Attorney General v Observer Ltd, Attorney General v Guardian Ltd (No 2) [1990] 1 AC 109 – the Spycatcher case.

Jaffa Cake case [1991] (United Biscuits (UK) Ltd, VAT decision 6344) – the judgement defined the difference between a cake and a biscuit, and accordingly announced that a Jaffa Cake is a cake and that therefore VAT was, and still is, not charged on the sale of Jaffa Cakes.

R v Brown [1993] 2 All ER 75 – every law student’s favourite BDSM case.

R v Paul Chambers [2010] (unreported, Doncaster Magistrates Court, 10 May 2010) – the prosecution of Paul Chambers for sending a “menacing” tweet relating to Robin Hood Airport. The so-called Twitter joke trial continues to be appealed at the time of writing.

Jaffa Cake note

The reason for the difference in VAT treatment between cakes and biscuits is that in 1973 – when the UK was negotiating its entry into the European Community – cake, like most other foodstuffs, was considered such an essential element of everyday life that it was zero-rated along with fruit and vegetables. Chocolate-covered biscuits, on the other hand, were a luxury and so VAT was charged on their sale.

By the time of the 1991 case on Jaffa Cakes, the chairman of the VAT tribunal considered (alongside the well-known factor of cakes becoming dry when left to go stale, whilst biscuits become soggy) that “cake, although sometimes eaten with the fingers, is normally to be found eaten from a plate, perhaps with a knife or pastry fork”. We do not know if a judge would make the same observation today.

What we do know is that these arguments over food will run and run – with a case about fish and chips already making a play for the next big case – and we will have to keep watching out for more interesting observations from judges about the way our food is consumed and, perhaps less interesting to some, whether VAT needs to be charged.


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