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State Immunity and Personal Injury in the High Court: Al-Masarir v Kingdom of Saudi Arabia [2022] EWHC 2199 (QB) - Sebastian Bates, Temple Garden Chambers

16/09/22. Under section 1(1) of the State Immunity Act 1978, ‘[a] State is immune from the jurisdiction of the courts of the United Kingdom except as provided in the following provisions’. In Al-Masarir v Kingdom of Saudi Arabia [2022] EWHC 2199 (QB), the High Court considered the exception set out in section 5 of the Act, according to which ‘[a] State is not immune as respects proceedings in respect of (a) death or personal injury; or (b) damage to or loss of tangible property, caused by an act or omission in the United Kingdom’.


The Claimant in Al-Masarir is a critic of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia who alleges that spyware was installed on his smartphones by the Kingdom’s agents. He was also followed and attacked in London in an episode for which he claims the Kingdom is responsible. He and his smartphones were present in the United Kingdom at all material times. He is seeking damages for personal injury.

The Claimant relied on section 5 to obtain permission to serve the claim form outside the jurisdiction from the Master. The Kingdom sought a declaration of its immunity under the Act and to have the Master’s order set aside.

Before Julian Knowles J, the Claimant contended that section 5 applies to both sovereign and non-sovereign conduct and does not require that all of a...

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