(i) The Problems Raised by Minority

The role of minority as a ground of restitution raises issues of some complexity. This is largely due to changes in the law concerning the effect of minority on the validity of transactions. The common law on the effect of minority was replaced by a statutory regime in 1874,[1] the main effect of which was to treat contracts made with minors as void, subject to certain exceptions. This statutory regime was abolished by the Minors’ Contracts Act 1987,[2] with the effect that the common law rules on the validity of contracts made with minors have been resurrected. This means that contracts made with minors are no longer void. It also means that those cases which were decided between 1874 and 1987 need to be analysed with some care. To make matters even more confusing, the definition of what constitutes a minor has also changed. Today a minor is defined as a child under 18,[3] whereas the previous age of majority was 21. It follows that there is now less opportunity for contracts to be made with minors, though the issue continues to be of some practical importance.

  • [1] 35 Section 4(2). 36 Family Law Reform Act 1969, s 1. 37 See p 134, above.
  • [2] 38 See H Beale (ed), Chitty on Contracts (31st edn, London: Sweet and Maxwell, 2012), paras 8-002 et seq.
  • [3] 39 See Steinberg v Scala (Leeds) Ltd [1923] 2 Ch 452.
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