Full case report

Henry v News Group Newspapers Ltd (No 2)

Reference [2011] EWHC 296 (QB)
Court Queen's Bench Division

Judge Tugendhat J

Date of Judgment 18 Feb 2011


Summary

Libel – Non-party disclosure – CPR 31.17 – Public interest as a ground for resisting disclosure


Facts

C, Sylvia Henry, a social work manager who dealt with the Baby P case, sued D over various articles which she claimed meant that she was to blame for the death of Baby P.

D sought disclosure from the London Borough of Haringey of parts of an Individual Management Review (“IMR”) conducted within Haringey after the death of Baby P, and of parts of records of interviews carried out for the IMR. Haringey conceded that the documents sought were relevant to the issues, but resisted disclosure on the grounds that it would be contrary to the public interest given the expectation of participants in the IMR process that the IMRs would remain confidential, and that disclosure may inhibit future cooperation by those invited to assist with IMRs.


Issue

Whether third party disclosure should be ordered against D.


Held

Granting the application for disclosure:

(1) Were C to win at trial on a false basis, because disclosure had not been ordered, the consequence would be of the utmost seriousness for the parties as well as for third parties such as C’s former manager Mr Preece, whom the Claimant blamed for any failings in Haringey’s handling of Baby P’s case. Mr Preece’s support for this application was therefore significant.

(2) The test of necessity may not be met in respect of relevant documents where an applicant has already received disclosure of sufficient documents to enable it to advance its case. However, this was not the situation on this application.

(3) The fact that Government policy appeared to be that IMRs should remain confidential was a neutral factor since the Government had chosen not to intervene in the application. In addition, there was no evidence that those who were interviewed for the IMR were assured that their contributions would remain confidential.

(4) Disclosure in this unusual case was unlikely to inhibit future cooperation with those carrying out IMRs.


Comment

The focus of this judgment is upon the reputational rights of third parties. Those interests must be protected even when the third parties in question have expressed no view upon the application for disclosure.


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Instructing Solicitors

Farrer and Co for D; In house solicitor for London Borough of Haringey; Neumanns for Clive Preece; C did not appear and was not represented