Source: Gibson v Manchester City Council [1979], judgement of Lord Diplock

I therefore feel compelled to allow the appeal. One can sympathise with Mr Gibson's disappointment on finding that his expectations [,] that he would be able to buy his council house at 20 per cent below its market value in the autumn of 1970 [,] cannot be realised. Whether one thinks this makes it a hard case perhaps depends upon the political views that one holds about council housing policy. But hard cases offer a strong temptation to let them have their proverbial consequences. It is a temptation that the judicial mind must be vigilant to resist.

I first thought that them = hard cases but this is wrong because the disapproving connotation of 'temptation' which (the next sentence says) 'must be vigilant to resist'.

Update Dec 17 2014: Thanks. Since I didn't realise that this was a proverb, please clarify 'their proverbial consequences'? Does it mean 'bad law', as mentioned by the users below?


1 Answer 1


The proverb is "Hard cases make bad law."

Thus, "them" refers to the "hard cases".

The proverb has the form:

<Causes> make <consequences>.

Thus, the "proverbial consequences" are "bad law".

  • Thanks. Would you please help with my update in my OP, in view of your answer?
    – user8712
    Dec 17, 2014 at 15:33
  • Will you please to respond in your answer, and not as a comment?
    – user8712
    Dec 17, 2014 at 15:34

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