Burmah Oil Co. v Lord Advocate

Burmah Oil Company Ltd. v Lord Advocate, [1965] AC 75, was a court case, raised in Scotland, and decided ultimately in the House of Lords. The case is an important decision in UK constitutional law and had unusual legal repercussions at the time.

This case concerned the destruction of oil fields in Burma by British forces during the Second World War. The sabotage was committed in order to prevent the plantations from falling into the hands of the advancing Japanese army.

The House of Lords held, by majority, that although the damage was lawful, it was the equivalent of requisitioning the property. Any act of requisition was done for the good of the public, at the expense of the individual proprietor, and for that reason, the proprietor should be compensated from public funds.

The result of the case was that the pursuers, Burmah Oil Company and others, should receive compensation for their destroyed plantations. In the end, the result was frustrated by the passing of a retrospective Act of Parliament, the War Damage Act 1965, which retroactively exempts the Crown from liability in respect of damage to, or destruction of, property caused by acts lawfully done by the Crown during, or in contemplation of the outbreak of, a war in which it is engaged.