Contracts promoting sexual immorality will include any contract for sex outside marriage, and would presumably cover otherwise lawful homosexual, as well as heterosexual activities. Such activities, while not constituting criminal offences or civil wrongs, may still be regarded as immoral, and contracts which involve them will be treated as contrary to public policy.
Pearce v Brooks – it’s not just sexual activity
The rule is not limited to contracts which directly concern sexual activity, as is shown by Pearce v Brooks. Here, there was a contract under which the claimants supplied the defendant with an ornamental broughman (a type of carriage) which was to be paid for by instalments. After one instalment has been paid, the broughman was returned in a damaged condition. The claimants sued for £15 compensation which was payable under the agreement if the broughman was returned. The defendant, however, was a prostitute, and there was evidence that she intended to use the broughman to attract customers. Moreover, it seems that at least one partner in the claimant’s firm was aware of this. On this basis, the court held that this would be an illegal contract, so that the claimants would be unable to recover either under the contract or for the damage.
The knowledge of the claimants was relevant here, but not every contract with a known prostitute will be illegal. In Appleton v Campbell the action was for the recovery of board and lodging in relation to a room rented from the claimant. The court held that the plaintiff could not recover if he knew that the defendant was a prostitute, and that she was using the room to entertain her clients. But:
- …if the defendant had her lodgings there, and received her visitors elsewhere, the claimant may recover, although she be a woman of the town, because persons of that description must have a place to lay their heads.
For more information on:
- Immoral contracts