make the law, they only discover it.
Lord Nicholls then observed that there were exceptionsto this rule in the form of other common law rules of application
“such as limitation, laches,
The last rule is especially important as it means that finally decided casescannot be reopened, even in light of an important new precedent changing our understandingof the law. This means that judicial precedents are not normally applied to finally determinedproceedings. The principle of general retrospectivity can undoubtedly be harsh if a decisionradically alters our perception of the law; people may discover that they have been actingillegally when they could not have known so. Lord Nicholls, however, accepted that this
account of retrospectivity, “[w]hatever its faults … is straightforward.”
It is certainlydoctrinally convincing as it can be applied consistently and predictably; it clearly indicateswhen there would be exceptions in the form of other common law rules for claims. LordNicholls then ide
ntified the various types of prospective overruling. He identified a “pure”
type where decisions have prospective effect only: the parties to the litigation bringing about
the decision are not affected. He then identified two forms of “selective” overrulin
g. In thefirst form, the decision applies prospectively and retrospectively only to the parties in thelitigation. In the second form, the decision applies prospectively and retrospectively to theparties to the immediate litigation and to parties to cases pending before the courts. He notedsome of the discriminatory disadvantages of this system: it discriminates either against thosewho were lucky enough to be have their claim heard first or those who were lucky enough torealise they might have a claim.The House unanimously held that it did have jurisdiction to make prospective rulings under
its underlying objective “to administer justice fairly and in accordance with the law”.
Itwould only do so when necessary in exceptional cases. It further held that it could makeprospective rulings if it was acting in its capacity to modify and develop common law rules
and principles to bring them in line with “current social conditions and expectations”.
It alsounanimously held that it could not do so if it was correcting a mistaken or incorrect statementof the law. In those circumstances the declaratory theory would still apply. It split 4-3 withregard to statutory interpretation. The majority (Lords Nicholls, Hope, Walker and BaronessHale) held that if the House was interpreting a statutory provision beyond its original meaning
“[I]f it be found that the former decision is manifestly absurd or unjust, it is declared, not that such a sentence
, but that it was
Sir William Blackstone
Lord Nicholls,  2 AC 680, at .
 2 AC 680, at .