Cleveland Bridge UK Ltd v Multiplex Constructions (UK) Ltd

Reference: [2005] EWHC 2101 (TCC)

Court: Technology & Construction Court

Judge: HHJ David Wilcox

Date of judgment: 31 Aug 2005

Summary: Open Justice - Access by third party to pleadings - CPR Part 5.4(5)

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The Applicants – Sarah Curnow and ABC – were the producer and broadcaster of an Australian television programme Four Corners. Multiplex Construction UK Limited (“Multiplex”) was a wholly owned subsidiary of Multiplex Limited which was listed on the Australian Stock Exchange. Multiplex was in a dispute with contractors regarding the rebuilding of Wembley stadium in London. The Applicants, by Application, sought access to the pleadings. Multiplex resisted the application contending (1) that Australian stock exchange rules meant that it if disclosure were made it would be under an onerous obligation to respond to matters that were published in the media; and (2) that the pleadings were at an interlocutory state and Multiplex did not want the matter litigated in the media rather than in Court.


Whether the Applicants should be given access to the pleadings in the case.


Granting the application and ordering disclosure of the pleadings to the Applicants: (1) the Court had already made extensive reference to the pleadings in a specific disclosure application and the principles of open justice required that the public (and the media) should have access to such documents (Scott v Scott [1913] AC 417 and Attorney-General v Leveller Magazine [1979] AC 440 applied); (2) pleadings ought to be treated as though being read in open court and anyone with a legitimate interest ought to be allowed reasonable access to them in accordance with the principles of open justice (Barings plc v Coopers and Lybrand [2001] 1 WLR 2353 and Law Debenture Trust Corp (Channel Islands) Limited v Lexington [2003] All ER 165 applied); (3) these principles applied equally to interlocutory proceedings (Hodgson v Imperial Tobacco Ltd [1998] 1 WLR 1056).


It might have been thought that it was obvious that the media were entitled to the pleadings given that there had been a fully argued specific disclosure application in open court. Notwithstanding this, Multiplex nevertheless sought to argue that the pleadings ought to be withheld or redacted. There may be many PR reasons that a party might have for preferring not to have the pleadings open to public scrutiny, but this judgment makes clear that the principles of open justice require that the public (and the media on their behalf) must not have their access to crucial documents about proceedings in Court fettered.