Case Briefs

R v Clarke

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R v Clarke


R v Clarke (1927), 40 CLR 227


His Majesty the King


Evan Clarke




High Court of Australia


Higgins J



Area of law

Communication of offer, Offer


Was there a contract between Clarke and the Crown and how would one determine this contract?


Two people were murdered at the end of April 1926 and a reward was issued May 21. One of the murderers (Treffene) was arrested on June 6 with Clarke. Coulter, the other murderer, was arrested June 10, and Coulter and Treffene were indicted and convicted. Clarke, having given information to the Crown to protect himself, wants to claim the reward; he had seen the reward but up to June 10th had no intention to claim reward. He is quoted as "first decided to claim the award a few days after the appeal had been dealt with" and "gave no consideration and no intention with regard to the reward". The Crown holds that no contract was formed between them and Clarke.


  1. Was there a contract between Clarke and the Crown and how would one determine this contract?


Appeal allowed.


The court, despite objecting on public policy grounds that not finding a contract would disuade other individuals from coming forward with evidence for rewards in the future, held that Clarke could not accept an offer he didn't know about citing Fitch v Snedaker and that forgetting about the reward was as good as ignorance. Further, Clarke had no expectation interest when he gave information to fulfill conditions of contract. The court ruled further than not only was a contract not formed, but Clarke had not fulfilled the terms of the contract as the reward stated a reward for "such information as shall lead to the arrest and conviction of the persons" and the arrests took place before the information was given.


  • One cannot accept an offer one doesn't know exists, or that one has forgotten exists.
  • One needs an expectation or reliance interest in the reward in order for that reward to be recoverable.

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