Privacy: Statements in open court

Same principles apply as in defamation cases

In Webb v Lewis Silkin LLP the court was asked to consider the principles which applied where a claimant who had settled a claim for misuse of private information and breach of confidence wished to make a statement in open court.

The claimant, Ms Webb, was a solicitor who was involved in arbitration proceedings with her former firm. The claim related to the firm accessing a number of her personal emails in the course of conducting a disclosure exercise. The proceedings were settled when the claimant accepted a payment into court. The claimant applied under paragraph 6 of CPR PD 53 for permission to read a statement in open court.

Mr Justice Nugee decided that as the practice of making a statement in open court had been extended from defamation proceedings to misuse of private information/confidence cases, the principles that the court should were the same as in defamation cases. The general expectation was that the claimant who settled a claim would be able to read out a statement about the case and its effect on them. As the case had settled, the role of the court was not to seek to resolve the issues in the claim. It was looking to see if the statement was fair and proportionate and that it did not misrepresent a party’s case or the nature of the settlement. It was not for the court to see that both sides positions were put equally. Rather, it was see that in accordance with her right to freedom of expression the claimant was able to put her position; she was entitled to say why she had been upset. A statement in open court is not a balanced statement by the court, and so it is not expected to explain the grounds of defence in any detail.

The draft statement submitted by the claimant was approved, save for two amendments.

5RB’s Alexandra Marzec acted for Ms Webb.

A full 5RB case report on this case can be found here.