Australia: Enforcing foreign judgments in Australia: A case study

Key Points:

Your strategy for enforcing a foreign judgments in Australia must be tailored to accommodate the particular factual circumstances of the foreign judgment.

We've previously outlined the two primary methods for enforcing UK judgments in Australia. In this article we provide an example of how the theory can be put into practice by looking at a recent case in which we acted involving the enforcement of a foreign judgment.

Although the case study below concerns the enforcement of a UK judgment, our observations apply equally to enforcing judgments obtained in other foreign jurisdictions.

Case study – Independent Trustee Services Limited v Morris [2010] NSWSC 1218

Independent Trustee Services Limited (ITS) is a UK-based professional trustee company which was appointed trustee of a number of UK pension schemes by the UK Pensions Regulator. ITS's appointment arose out of an alleged misapplication of around £52 million of the pension schemes' assets by two former trustees. In 2008, ITS commenced proceedings in the High Court of Justice of England and Wales (UK High Court) seeking to recover the funds which had been inappropriately paid out of the pension schemes and other relief. Mr Morris was one of a number of defendants in the UK proceedings.

At the time the UK proceedings were commenced, Mr Morris, a UK citizen, was living in Australia. He was served with the UK originating process in Australia but did not enter an appearance or defend the claim made against him.

The UK High Court delivered its final judgment in July 2010 (UK Judgment) and held that the £52 million had been paid out of the pension schemes in breach of trust and that Mr Morris was knowingly involved in the breach of trust. Mr Morris was ordered to pay ITS compensation of £52 million and to provide an account of the use and application of the trust assets. An order for an account is an equitable remedy whereby the court facilitates an inquiry into how trust funds or other assets have been applied.

Clayton Utz was retained by ITS to have the UK judgment against Mr Morris recognised and enforced in Australia.

UK judgment not registrable under the Act

Although the UK judgment was a money judgment delivered by a court to which the Foreign Judgments Act 1991 (Cth) extends, it was not registrable because ITS could not establish that the UK High Court had exercised jurisdiction over Mr Morris in the international sense for the purpose of the Act.

As we discussed in our last article, under the Act a UK court will be deemed to have exercised jurisdiction in the international sense if:

  • the defendant voluntarily submitted to the court's jurisdiction;
  • at the time when the UK proceedings were instituted the defendant resided in or had its principal place of business in the UK; or
  • the UK proceedings concerned a transaction effected through or at an office, or place of business, that the defendant had in the UK.

In this case none of the above grounds applied. Mr Morris had not submitted to the UK jurisdiction, he was residing in Australia at the time the proceedings were instituted and the UK proceedings did not concern a transaction effected through or at an office or place of business that Mr Morris had in the UK.

Given that the UK judgment was not registrable under the Act, ITS commenced proceedings in the Equity Division of the New South Wales Supreme Court to have the UK judgment recognised at common law and in equity.

Recognition at common law

The test for international jurisdiction at common law is somewhat broader then the statutory test. As with the Act, common law deems a court to have exercised international jurisdiction if the defendant voluntarily submitted to the foreign court's jurisdiction or the defendant was ordinarily resident in the country of the foreign court at the time he or she was served with the originating process.

However, there are also cases where international jurisdiction has been recognised on the basis that the defendant was a citizen of the country of a foreign court and the defendant actively used or relied upon his or her citizenship. ITS applied this third approach in the NSW proceedings to establish that the UK High Court had exercised jurisdiction in the international sense in respect of Mr Morris. To this end, evidence was adduced in the NSW Proceedings that Mr Morris was a UK citizen and that he had actively used his citizenship by:

  • recently travelling on his UK passport; and
  • seeking to rely on his UK citizenship to invoke the certain rights alleged to be available to him under UK human rights legislation.

As ITS was able to establish that the UK judgment was final and conclusive and that the UK High Court had exercised international jurisdiction, the New South Wales Supreme Court recognised and gave effect to the orders in the UK judgment which required Mr Morris to pay ITS £52 million.

Enforcement in equity

Common law will only enforce judgments requiring the payment of money. Therefore, ITS also had to enforce the UK judgment in equity to facilitate the recognition of the order in the UK judgment that Mr Morris provide an account of the use and application of the trust assets.

There are numerous cases where Australian courts exercising their equitable jurisdiction have lent assistance to the enforcement of equitable relief obtained in foreign courts. ITS relied on those authorities in arguing that the UK order for the taking of an account should be recognised in Australia. The NSW Supreme Court accepted this argument and ordered that an account be taken to ascertain how the misappropriated trust assets had been applied by Mr Morris.

Since the conclusion of the NSW proceedings Mr Morris has been repatriated to the UK where he has been charged with theft, conspiracy, and aiding and abetting fraud.


A key point to take away from this case study is that your strategy for enforcing a foreign judgments in Australia must be tailored to accommodate the particular factual circumstances of the foreign judgment in question.

Judgments obtained in foreign courts to which the Act extends will not always be registrable under the Act. However, even if such judgments cannot be registered under the Act, they may still be capable of recognition at common law or in equity.

Sitting in their common law jurisdiction, Australia courts will only give effect to money judgments (that is, judgments ordering the payment of money) but Australian courts of equity offer greater flexibility and may be prepared to lend assistance to enforcing equitable relief awarded in foreign proceedings.

Clayton Utz communications are intended to provide commentary and general information. They should not be relied upon as legal advice. Formal legal advice should be sought in particular transactions or on matters of interest arising from this bulletin. Persons listed may not be admitted in all states and territories.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Mondaq Advice Centre (MACs)
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.