(iii) Is Extortion by Colour of Office Still a Significant Ground of Restitution?

Although the ground of extortion by colour of office has proved to be of some significance in respect of restitutionary claims brought against public authorities, it is probably a ground of restitution which no longer matters following the recognition by the House of Lords in Woolwich Equitable Building Society v IRC49 of a new ground of restitution of relevance to restitutionary claims against public authorities, which does all of the work of extortion by colour of office and more.50 The better view, therefore, is that, whilst extortion by colour of office is of historical interest and laid important foundations for the recognition of the new ground of restitution in Woolwich, it is a ground which is no longer of any significance to the modern law of restitution. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]

  • [1] (1910) 11 CLR258, 277.
  • [2] (1824) 2 B and C 729, 107 ER 584. See also Dew v Parsons (1819) 2 B and Ald 562, 106 ER 471 and Brocklebank Ltd v R [1925] 1 KB 52.
  • [3] [1946] Ch 236. See also Slater v Burnley Corporation (1888) 59 LT 636.
  • [4] [1993] AC 70. See p 398, below.
  • [5] Cf Enonchong, ‘Restitution from Public Authorities’, 85, who considers that there is still a role for coloreofficii where payments other than tax are made to a public authority. If Woolwich is only applicable torestitution of overpaid taxes, then there is a continued role for colore officii in respect of other ultra virespayments, but there is no reason why the Woolwich principle should be so confined.
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