Full case report

CTB v News Group Newspapers

Reference [2011] EWHC 3099 (QB)
Court QBD

Judge Eady J

Date of Judgment 25 Nov 2011


Summary

CPR 53 PD 6.3 – statements in open court – privacy – misuse of private information – part 36


Facts

C obtained an injunction against a newspaper (The Sun) and a female source (model Imogen Thomas) in misuse of private information to prevent the latter disclosing details of a past sexual relationship. In support of the injunction application C submitted that he was concerned that he might be the victim of a blackmail attempt by the model, a submission which was recorded in the Court’s written judgment handed down on 16 May 2011. The model chose not to give evidence denying C’s version of events. The claim did not come on for trial. One aspect of the settlement negotiations was that Ms Thomas be permitted to read a unilateral statement in open court providing vindication. Another Judge turned down the application when it was originally presented in writing on grounds of the ambiguities of its drafting and vagueness.


Issue

Whether the second defendant should be permitted to make a unilateral statement in open court in response to evidence she did not challenge in an earlier application hearing for an interim injunction


Held

Refusing the application;

1. Although the model, Imogen Thomas, could have put in evidence denying C’s claims at the injunction application or on the return date which would have been recorded in the Court’s judgment, there was an interest in openness in proceedings, particularly where there were untested allegations of fact or the Court has proceeded ex parte.

2. The jurisdiction under CPR 53 PD 6.3 was not limited to claimants— “…a party wishes to accept a Part 36 offer or other offer of settlement”. There was no reason in principle why a defendant could not avail himself of the mechanism to protect rights recognised as forming part of Article 8.

3. In the instant case the proposed draft of the statement in open court did not serve to resolve the factual matters put in dispute by the earlier allegations—the blackmail issue was rather “fudged” and the Court would not permit its use as a forum where such a statement was unclear or counter-productive.


Comment

This application was “something of a departure from established practice.” The Judge recognised that there might be a variety of occasions when a defendant would wish to “clear their name” in relation to an allegation made against them during the litigation process, for example where a claim settled at trial after allegations had been reported, or where a plea of malice was placed on the record but failed. Although the application failed, it established the novel prospect of a party other than a claimant being permitted to make a statement in open court, thus drawing the media’s attention to their own position or interests. Nevertheless, it may be that irreparable damage to reputation is done by choosing not to put in evidence at the appropriate hearing to counter critical allegations and seeking to rely on a statement in open court many months later to put the genie back in the bottle.


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