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Case Brief – R vs. Clarke – Law Notes

case brief, case summary

R v. Clarke, [1927] 40 CLR 227

case brief, case summary


Evan Clarke, Plaintiff

The Crown, Defendant


The case deals with the topic, Communication of offer and Acceptance. According to Section 4 of the Indian Contract Act of 1872, the communication of the offer is complete when it comes to the awareness of the person to whom it has been made.

So, when the offeree (in the case of a specific offer) or any member of the public (in the event of a broad offer) becomes aware of the offer, it is said that the communication of the offer is completed.

There are two modes of communication of acceptance, one- by an act, this would involve verbal as well as written communication and two- by conduct, The offeree might also express his acceptance of the offer by some action or behavior.

The timing of the acceptance also plays a vital role- one, against the offeror; The proposer’s acceptance communication is complete when he places such acceptance in the course of transmission.

After that, rescinding such acceptance is out of his hands, thus his communication will be complete, and two, against the acceptor; When the proposer becomes aware of the acceptor’s acceptance, the communication is complete.

The case also deals with an element that is required to form a contract, intention to enter into a contract. The willingness of a party to accept the legal implications of entering into an agreement constitutes intent to form a contract.

Intention to establish legal relations is a move that every contractual party must have in order to enter into a legally enforceable contract.

With no purpose of establishing legal relations, the contractual parties are not legally bound, and the contract is rendered void.

As a result, if the contract is valid, the contractual parties cannot sue each other, which shall exacerbate their commercial problem, and make it difficult for the contractual parties to seek justice.

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Prior Proceedings:

Clarke was charged for willful murder and arrested on 6th June, 1926.


On 21st May 1926, the Commissioner of Police and the Government of Western Australia issued a notice stating, whoever provides information regarding the murders of John Joseph Walsh, Inspector of Police and Alexander Henry Pitman, Sergeant of Police and shall lead to the conviction of the murderers, will be awarded thousand pounds.

Several days later, on 6th June, Evan Clarke was apprehended for willful murder, and when he heard about this offer, on 10th June, he gave the court information, saying that the individuals who were responsible for the murders of the policemen were, William Coulter and Phillip John Treffene, and subsequently, the two were convicted.

The details that Clarke had provided the court with, was found to be extremely helpful because without that no case could have been decided by the jurisdiction. Clarke’s testimony had been backed up by a slew of facts that confirmed and solidified it, and there was a solid case that the guilty were forced to respond about.

Clarke was acquitted, but the reward that had been offered was not given to him as the Crown claimed that Clarke failed to establish that there was a contract between the parties or that he fulfilled the requirement that would entitle him to the award.


Was there ever a contract between Clarke and the Crown, and how would this contract be ascertained?

Rule of Law:

  1. To be considered a legitimate acceptance, you must appear to be acting in accordance to the offer. You are unable to accept an offer if-
  1. You are in ignorance of it
  2. You are not acting in response to it
  1. Acceptance of an offer must be conveyed to the offeror unless the contracting authority expresses, by his language and the nature of the transaction, that he does not anticipate or require notification of acceptance.
  2. A person who is aware of an offer and meets its terms prima facie demonstrates acceptance, although this is a conclusion that can be countered by information to the contrary.
  3. In most cases, when a party begins to fulfil some of the terms of the offer, they have established acceptance.
law notes


Upon analyzing the facts, MacMillan CJ said that Clarke had no intention of becoming an informant. He was aware that his accomplices were involved in illegal gold trafficking and had committed a heinous crime, and he made every effort to protect them from the repercussions.

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To screen them, he disguised himself as an accessory. He told the detectives mistruths and he only disclosed the truth after his imprisonment to clear his name of the false murder allegation.

After concluding that no contract was ever formed and that the information was not provided in response to the offer, he stated it was unnecessary to address any of the other issues raised and that the petition should be dismissed.

The Crown conceded that Clarke’s evidence had resulted in the first conviction in the case. The Crown denounced the claim on three grounds: one, there was no contract because there was no consensus between the parties; two, there was no contract because the petitioner did not carry out the conditions contained in the Government’s proclamation – and thus is not entitled to the reward; and three, there was no contract between the parties because there was no consensus between the parties.

This was because the information provided by people other than the petitioner led to the arrest of Treffene, one of the killers, before the petitioner making the statement on which his claim is based.

The announcement alluded to a prize promised to the identification of the perpetrator or perpetrators of the two police officers, and the contract so promised could not be completed in part by any individual.

The petitioner’s information was not related to the motive for seeking the prize. As a result, the petitioner did not accept the contract, and it was never performed by him. Clarke’s disclosure of the material did not constitute an acceptance of the Crown’s offer.

He had never meant for the statements he made to be used to fulfill the contract, therefore it cannot be assumed that he did accept the offer.

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Furthermore, the Crown’s offer was implicitly canceled when one of the murderers, Treffene, was apprehended on a charge of murder by the police, which Clarke was fully aware of.

This contract cancellation prevented him from accepting the offer and so entering into a binding contract. Although it was not stated, a revocation had occurred.


Clarke’s petition was dismissed.

Despite appealing on procedural grounds that not establishing a contract might discourage others from coming forward with evidence for awards in the future, the court decided that Clarke never could accept an offer if he was unaware of it.

Clarke had no anticipation of benefit when he provided information to meet contract terms. The court went on to rule that not only had no contract been formed, but Clarke had failed to meet the obligations of the offer because the reward stated a reward for “such information as shall lead to the arrest and conviction of the persons” and the arrests occurred before the information was given.