R v Clarke (1927), 40 CLR 227
Appellant: His Majesty the King
Court: High Court of Australia
Judge: Higgins J
Crown offered a reward for information that would lead to the conviction of the murderer. Clarke was under suspicion of the murder by crown, and to reduce his own sentence, gave the information leading to the arrest of the murderers. Without that evidence there would have been no case. Clarke admitted that he had no intention (at the time he gave the information) to earn the reward. Crown refuses to pay reward.
- Was there a contract between Clarke and the Crown and how would one determine this contract?
The court, despite objecting on public policy grounds that not finding a contract would dissuade other individuals from coming forward with evidence for rewards in the future, held that Clarke could not accept an offer he didn’t know about citing Fitch v Snedaker and that forgetting about the reward was as good as ignorance. Further, Clarke had no expectation interest when he gave information to fulfill conditions of contract. The court ruled further than not only was a contract not formed, but Clarke had not fulfilled the terms of the contract as the reward stated a reward for “such information as shall lead to the arrest and conviction of the persons” and the arrests took place before the information was given.
- One cannot accept an offer one doesn’t know exists, or that one has forgotten exists.
- One needs an expectation or reliance interest in the reward in order for that reward to be recoverable.