Reference:  EWHC 1006 (Ch)
Court: Chancery Division
Judge: Mann J
Date of judgment: 6 May 2004
Public inspection of court documents - CPR 32.13- Media application- Witness statements
Adam Wolanski QC (Applicant)
Instructing Solicitors: Times Legal Department for the Applicant
Lurid allegations were contained in a witness statement and statements of case but were not relied upon. Parts of the Defence were accordingly struck out. On the basis that Counsel knew the new ambit of the case nothing was struck out of the witness statement. On day 6 of the trial the media sought inspection of the witness statement. The Judge ruled it was available in principle save insofar as redaction was appropriate. The media applied for disclosure, arguing that inspection was permitted under the rules as a matter of course.
Whether a witness statement levelling scandalous allegations which were not being pursued should be open for inspection by the media and in what form.
The burden is on a party objecting to inspection to make an application under CPR 32.13. The ‘interests of justice’ required limited restrictions on the right of inspection. The interests of third parties who would be tainted by the allegations in the witness statements qualified for such a restriction. A balance was struck by utilising initials of third parties, leaving the tenor of the allegations in place as they were part of the Defendant’s case.
Modern civil litigation and its emphasis upon evidence being given in writing often means that some of the strictures that would have been insisted upon had a witness being giving oral evidence (particularly in front of a jury) are not observed. Here, although allegations had been struck out from the statements of case, no application had been made to excise them from the relevant witness statement.