Full case report

Hayden & Anor v Charlton; Hayden & Anor v Carver

Reference [2010] EWHC 3144 (QB)
Court Queen's Bench Division

Judge Sharp J

Date of Judgment 3 Dec 2010


Summary

Libel – Striking out – Delay – Non compliance with court orders – CPR Rule 3.4(2)(c) – Litigants in Person – Article 10, ECHR


Facts

The Claimants (C), an engineering company and its managing director, had bought libel actions against the Defendants (D) in relation to articles published on various websites. The allegations complained of were that Cs had fenced off land without planning permission, had felled trees, destroyed local wildlife and had harassed local residents.

Ds acted as litigants in person. Cs had not complied with the original court imposed timetable or with a revised timetable. Cs had also failed to give Ds notice of an order made without a hearing for variation of a revised timetable. Ds had sought an unless order to compel the Cs to comply with the revised orders but, at the hearing of that application, Cs provided relevant documents and gave express assurances about future compliance. Further directions were given. The costs of that application were awarded to the Ds but were only paid in part once enforcement action had been initiated. Cs then failed to comply with further court orders or to respond to Ds’ correspondence.

Ds applied to strike out the claims under CPR Rule 3.4(2)(c) on the basis that Cs had failed to comply with court orders and had taken advantage of them as litigants in person in a way which affected their Art 10 rights to freedom of expression.


Issue

Whether the claim ought to be struck out under CPR r.3.4(2)(c) on the grounds that the Cs had repeatedly failed to comply with court orders and their conduct in the proceedings generally


Held

The rules of procedure under the CPR regime had been introduced primarily to give effect to the overriding objective of enabling courts to deal justly with cases. This included ensuring that parties were on an equal footing and cases were dealt with proportionately, with regard to the importance of the case, complexity of the issues and financial position of the parties, and ensuring cases were dealt with expeditiously and fairly.

In this case, there had been a deliberate and wholesale non-compliance with the rules and the orders of the court by Cs, amounting to a total disregard for the Court’s orders. Such conduct was contrary to the overriding objective and had resulted in serious delay in the progress of the case. Their conduct had had a significant and oppressive effect on Ds who, as litigants in person, had had to progress the actions against them. Cs had taken advantage of Ds being unrepresented and with limited means. Cs’ conduct indicated that they had lost interest in the litigation and had no genuine desire to pursue it. In such circumstances, the continuation of the action would be an abuse and judgment should be entered for Ds.


Comment

A stark reminder of the importance of complying with court orders and case management timetables.  Also, the need to ensure that in cases where litigants in person are involved, that every effort is made to ensure that the litigation is fair and that the parties are on a equal footing. Litigants in person must not be unfairly disadvantaged by virtue of being unrepresented or of limited means.


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Instructing Solicitors

Berryman for the Claimants; Defendants in person