Sovereign immunity

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Sovereign immunity, or crown immunity, is a type of immunity that in common law jurisdictions traces its origins from early English law. Generally speaking it is the doctrine that the sovereign or state cannot commit a legal wrong and is immune from civil suit or criminal prosecution; hence the saying, "the king (or queen) can do no wrong". In many cases, states have waived this immunity to allow for suits; in some cases, an individual may technically appear as defendant on the state's behalf.


In the Middle Ages

Pope Gelasius I opined on the general principles that underly sovereign immunity:

In constitutional monarchies

In a constitutional monarchy the sovereign is the historical origin of the authority which creates the courts. Thus the courts had no power to compel the sovereign to be bound by the courts, as they were created by the sovereign for the protection of his or her subjects.


There is no automatic Crown immunity in Australia, although the Crown may be explicitly or implicitly immune from any particular statute. There is a rebuttable presumption that the Crown is not bound by a statute: Bropho v State of Western Australia. The Crown's immunity may also apply to other parties in certain circumstances: see Australian Competition and Consumer Commission v Baxter Healthcare.

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