The case poses among the first issues rooted in civil rights. The issue on his civil right is that one party can recover damages while one of his civil rights is hindered by the action of another. Ashby v White (1703) 92 ER 126 is a fundamental case of UK constitutional law and English tort law. This involves the right to vote and the inability of an elected official to do so.


Legal Maxim Used

Damnum Sine Injuria



Court of King’s Bench


Date of Judgment

1 January 1703


Equivalent Citation

(1703) 92 ER 126, (1703) 2 Ld Raym 938, (1703) 1 Sm LC (13th Edn) 253



Holt CJ, Powell J, Powy J, Gould J.



Mr. Ashby was prohibited from voting in an election by the mistake of the constable, Mr. White, under the obvious pretext that he was not a settled inhabitant. At the time, the case attracted great public attention and discussion in Parliament. It was later known as the election case of Aylesbury. In the House of Lords, it attracted the attention of Peter King, 1st Baron King, who spoke and upheld the right of electors to have recourse to common law for the revocation of their votes, despite the insistence of the Conservative party on the rights of the House of Commons. Sir Thomas Powys defended William White at the House of Lords. The argument put forward was that the Commons alone had the power to decide election cases, not the courts.


Synopsis: Rule of Law

Where the actions of one party impair the rights of another, that party can be held liable.


Issues Before the Court

This topic is one of the first issues based on civil rights.

The question, in this case, is whether one party may seek damages if one of its civil rights is violated by the action of another party.



Where the actions of one party impair the rights of another, that party can be held liable.


Final Judgment

Mr. Matthew Ashby, a cobbler, turned up to vote for the British Parliament in December 1701. Ashby was turned away by William White, the constable, because “he was not a settled inhabitant of the borough, and had never contributed either to the church or the sick. Notwithstanding this, his opponent won the race, and he was not hurt. Yet Ashby refused to take this lying down and sued for large damages. The defendants argued that because Ashby had suffered no loss when his nominee won the race, he was not responsible. His suit was successful, but the House of Commons found Ashby guilty of a breach of parliamentary privilege for having behaved in the common law. Chief Justice Holt then upheld Ashby ‘s appeal, stating that what was at issue was “the most transcendental and high-quality matter.” Finally, it was held that the defendant (White) violated Ashby’s civil rights and was entitled to damages by prohibiting the Complainant (Ashby) from voting. Chief Justice Holt said, “Any injury imports harm even if it does not cost the party one farthing. In the case of damage not only pecuniary but also injury, damage is imported if a person is hampered in his or her rights.



The defendant, the returning officer, unlawfully refused to register a properly tendered candidate for the vote of the appellant, a constitutionally eligible elector, in a general election, and the candidate for whom the vote was held was chosen, and no harm suffered by the denial of the vote. The appeal for damages may also be brought if a person is deprived of his or her right to vote by a statute that is illegal by a violation of the right to equality.


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