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Pearce v Brooks – Case Summary

Legal Case Summary

Pearce v Brooks (1865) LR 1 Ex 213

Lawful contracts made for immoral purposes are illegal.


The defendant was a prostitute who hired a carriage from the plaintiff, who was a coachbuilder, on hire purchase terms to be paid for in instalments. She wanted the carriage to attract customers. The defendant did not pay the second instalment on the carriage and returned it in a damaged condition, in breach of the agreement. At first instance the jury found on the evidence that the coachbuilder knew that she was a prostitute at the time the contract was made. The coachbuilder sued for non-payment and for the damage.


It was argued that, as the coachbuilder knew the defendant was a prostitute, he expected to be paid out of the profits of prostitution. He, therefore, knew of the immoral purpose to which the carriage was to be put and should not be allowed to recover on the contract. 

Decision / Outcome

The court found for the defendant. It was immaterial that the immoral purpose was not part of the contract or whether the claimant was to be paid out of the proceeds. Bramwell B distinguished between a contract to supply a prostitute with a carriage to be used to attract customers and a contract to supply her a pair of shoes, as shoes were one of the necessities of life. It was part of the principle ex turpi causa non oritur actio that anyone who supplies something for the performance an illegal act with knowledge that it was to be used for that purpose cannot sue for the price of it. An immoral purpose was the same thing as an illegal purpose. Therefore, the plaintiff could not recover.

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Answering problem questions in the University of London LLB programme requires a clear understanding of legal principles, good analytical skills and the ability to apply the law to a given set of facts. Here are some tips to help you answer problem questions effectively:

  1. Read the question carefully: Make sure you understand what the question is asking before you begin writing.
  2. Identify the legal issues: Identify the legal issues raised by the facts and the relevant laws that apply to those issues.
  3. Analyze the facts: Analyze the facts presented in the question, focusing on the details that are relevant to the legal issues.
  4. Apply the law: Apply the relevant laws to the facts, making sure to consider all relevant legal principles and cases.
  5. Structure your answer: Use a clear and well-structured approach, starting with an introduction that outlines the main legal issues, followed by a discussion of the relevant laws and a conclusion that summarizes your analysis and sets out your conclusion.
  6. Use relevant cases and statutes: Cite relevant cases and statutes to support your analysis and help illustrate the legal principles you are discussing.
  7. Be concise: Be concise and to the point, focusing on the key issues and avoiding unnecessary detail.
  8. Proofread: Proofread your answer carefully to make sure it is error-free and clear.
  9. Time management: Make sure you manage your time effectively, leaving enough time to review your answer and make any necessary corrections.

By following these tips, you should be able to answer problem questions in the University of London LLB programme effectively and with confidence. Good luck!

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