Public policy is difficult to define, but essentially it assumes that there are some interests which are shared by most of society, which promote the smooth running of the type of society we have, and which should therefore be protected.
Public policy changes over time as views and beliefs change in a society.
It has been suggested that it is not open to the courts to find new ways in which a contract may be illegal on grounds of being contrary to public policy. This is because public policy in politically motivated.
There are a range of contracts which are considered to be illegal because they are against the interest of public policy. The main categories of such contracts include;
Contracts prejudicial to the status of marriage
This category makes void any contract which seeks to restrict someone’s right to marry or to choose their own partner, to charge for procuring a marriage partner, or to provide for the future separation of a married couple.
Contracts prejudicial to public safety
The main types of contract made illegal on this ground are transactions with those living in an enemy country during wartime, contracts to perform acts which are illegal in a friendly foreign country and contracts which are damaging to foreign relations.
Contracts prejudicial to the administration of justice
An example of such kind of contracts will be an agreement not to report a criminal offence in return for payment.
Contracts tending to encourage corruption in public life
This was the case of Parkinson v College of Ambulance Ltd and Harrison (1925).
Contracts to oust the jurisdiction of the courts
A contract which purports to deprive the courts of a jurisdiction which they would otherwise have is not enforceable.
Contracts promoting sexual immorality
These are contracts which promote public indecency, sexual violence and prostitution practices.