C was a well known American businessman whose company, Las Vegas Sands Corp, developed and ran gaming resorts in the United States. D1 was the International Affairs Co-ordinator of D2, the trade union ‘Unite Here’. The words complained of, which exclusively concerned events in the USA, were published against the background of government proposals to reform UK gaming laws and establish ‘super’ casinos in Britain at the beginning of the last decade.
D appeared on behalf of her trade union at a fringe meeting of the Labour party conference, run by British trade unions, in Brighton in September 2004. A pamphlet accompanied a talk she gave about C’s business practices and history. Both talk and pamphlet made allegations about C personally, and about his approach to business and politics, which were serious enough to shock some of those present.
The history of the claim itself was long and convoluted. It was made for damages and an injunction, was issued in September of 2005 and served in March 2006. Orders and other directions relating to it were made in early 2007 but not complied with. Instead, a trial date which was fixed in July 2007 for the following year was adjourned so that an action by the same C against Associated Newspapers, in respect of an article published in the Daily Mail at about the same time, could be allocated to the designated dates. That second action was settled by a Statement in Open Court in March 2008.
C made attempts to get the ball rolling again after the settlement, and an unsuccessful mediation eventually took place in early March 2011. In its wake, C’s solicitors again stated their intention to proceed, Ds noting the four year delay since the orders made in 2007. Ds then issued the application notice asking for the claim to be struck out for abuse of process under CPR 3.4 (2) (b), saying that the action would serve no useful purpose.