Foreign judgments

An English court may find itself called upon to recognise or enforce a judgment rendered by a foreign court. Certain types of judgment, by their nature, only require recognition. These include foreign divorce and nullity decrees. Others, including all judgments in personam, may on occasions only need to be recognised, as when a defendant pleads that he had satisfied a judgment given in the claimant's favour. But the court may be asked to enforce a foreign judgment, such as a maintenance order, or any judgment for damages.

The law governing the matter has become somewhat complex. Six different sets of rules exist. These deal with, respectively, judgments of courts (i) of other EU countries, (ii) of other parts of the United Kingdom, (iii) of EFTA countries,1 (iv) of Commonwealth countries to which the Administration of Justice Act 1920 applies, (v) of countries to which the Foreign Judgments (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act 1933 applies and (vi) of other countries to which rules of common law apply.2 It is the last of these with which this chapter is chiefly concerned.3

Basis of recognition and enforcement

Since the mid-nineteenth century the theory adopted by the English courts to explain their recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments has been the doctrine of 'obligation'. This means that a judgment rendered by a foreign court of competent jurisdiction imposes upon the defendant a duty or obligation to obey it and discharge it and confers a correlative right on the claimant to enforce that obligation through the English courts. This was clearly enunciated in Schibsby v. Westenholz4 by Blackburn J.

(i), (ii) and (iii) are discussed in ch. 10 below.
(v) applies to judgments of courts of some EU and EFTA countries to which the rules of the Civil Jurisdiction and Judgment Acts 1982 and 1991 do not apply.
Reference to the rules of the 1933 Act will be made where these are apposite.
(1870) LR 6 QB 155, quoting Godard v. Gray (1870) LR 6 QB 139. >109


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Conflict of Laws


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