Mar 12
5:30 pm - 6:30 pm
HKU Private Law and Theory Speaker Series: Making Contract-breakers Pay

HKU Private Law and Theory Speaker Series:


Making Contract-breakers Pay


12 March 2024 (Tuesday)
5:30 – 6:30 PM
NEW VENUE: Room 824, 8/F Cheng Yu Tung Tower, HKU




This paper examines a deceptively simple question: when can one contracting party obtain a court order requiring the other to pay a sum that the other has agreed to pay? Somewhat surprisingly, the English lawyer’s traditional answer is: ‘It depends’. If the promise was to pay consequent on a breach of contract, it will be enforceable only if it is not a ‘penalty clause’; on the other hand, where the promise creates a contractual debt, enforceable by an action for the agreed sum, the defendant will be ordered to pay in almost all cases where the liability to pay has accrued.


This paper suggests that there is instead one broad remedial principle which governs the enforceability of contractual promises to pay money, irrespective of whether or not the payment is conditional on a breach of contract: viz., that the court will not order a defendant to perform its promise where the claimant has no legitimate interest in that remedy. To vindicate this claim, this paper will argue that the operation of both the ‘penalties rule’ as well as the ‘legitimate interest bar’ in White & Carter (Councils) Ltd v McGregor [1962] A.C. 413 has been misunderstood.


Alexander Georgiou, All Souls College, University of Oxford


Alexander Georgiou is an Examination Fellow at All Souls College. His research spans doctrinal and philosophical concepts in private law. His doctoral thesis explores why legal systems provide remedies and what this might tell us about the kinds of remedies we should, and do, have. Beyond his doctoral work, he takes a broad interest in the laws of contract, tort, trusts, and unjust enrichment. He is also interested in the intersection of linguistics and law as well as wider questions of moral and political philosophy in the context of the law and civil justice systems. Alex read for the BA in Jurisprudence (2014-2017) at Brasenose College, Oxford, for which he received the Martin Wronker Prize for the best performance in FHS. Following his undergraduate studies, he returned to Brasenose to read for the Bachelor of Civil Law (2018-2019) as a Temple Chambers scholar, and was then appointed a Lecturer in Law (2019) before taking up his current position. Since 2019, Alex has published numerous papers in the Modern Law Review, Law Quarterly Review, Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, and Lloyd’s Maritime and Commercial Law Quarterly.


Chair: Mr Paul Shieh SC, Temple Chambers


All are Welcome! Please register at to attend this in-person event.
For inquiries: Flora Leung at

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