Staying of English actions and restraint
of foreign proceedings
The English court has an inherent power, which is contained also in the Supreme Court Act 1981, section 49(3), to stay any action which is frivolous or vexatious or otherwise an abuse of the process of the court.
It also has the power to restrain, by injunction, persons subject to its jurisdiction from instituting or continuing proceedings in foreign courts. The power of the court to grant injunctions generally is to be found in section 37(1) of the same Act.
Until relatively recent times, the courts denied that English law contained any general doctrine of forum non conveniens, by virtue of which a court will decline to exercise the jurisdiction it possesses because it is not the most suitable court to hear the case but some foreign court is.1 But the law on this matter underwent considerable development after 1972 when a process of 'liberalisation' set in. For some time, the principles upon which a court should exercise its discretion to stay or not to stay an action in favour of a foreign court were a matter of considerable doubt and it was not until 1986 that the courts adopted coherent guidelines. Then, in Spiliada Maritime Corporation v. Cansulex Ltd (The Spiliada),2 the House of Lords introduced some order into the confusion which it had itself generated in the first place.
The Spiliada laid down the basic principle that English proceedings may be stayed where there is another clearly more appropriate forum for____________________