Full case report

Friend v Civil Aviation Authority & Others

Reference [2005] EWHC 201 (QB)
Court Queen's Bench Division

Judge Eady J

Date of Judgment 25 Feb 2005


Summary

Malicious falsehood – Breach of contract – Inducement to breach contract – Unlawful means conspiracy – Civil Aviation Authority – Dismissal from employment


Facts

Captain Friend (F) was employed by the CAA. He took objection to a number of instructions given to him in relation to audit reports. His relationship with CAA management deteriorated, and eventually he was dismissed. An industrial tribunal found that the dismissal had been procedurally unfair, but that F’s contribution was 100%, so he was not awarded compensation. F brought claims against the CAA and four of its officers for malicious falsehoods in a number of specified documents; breach of his contract of employment; inducing that breach; and (against the four officers only) for conspiracy in compiling and communicating the relevant documents and pursuing a campaign of harassment against him.


Issue

(1) Whether the documents complained of contained malicious falsehoods;
(2) Whether the four officers had acted in conspiracy;
(3) Whether the CAA and officers had induced a breach of F’s contract of employment;
(4) Whether they had in fact breached that contract.


Held

(1) F faced the heavy burden of showing the CAA and its officers to have published the documents knowing them to be false or being indifferent to their truth or falsity. There was no evidence to support F’s far-fetched case. The CAA and its officers had not acted maliciously.
(2) The officers had not committed conspiracy as they had not committed any unlawful acts. The instructions given to F did not require him to commit a crime or civil wrong and so were not unlawful, nothing could be regarded as harassment of F, and the internal disciplinary procedure was not illegal.
(3) There was no breach of F’s contract, by the instructions, documents, disciplinary procedure or otherwise.
(4) There was no inducement of breach as there was no breach or loss. Nor was there any intent to induce a breach. The officers had acted in good faith at all times.


Comment

This case shows the high burden facing any litigant attempting to prove malice. Absent evidence pointing to knowledge of falsity or indifference, it is extremely different to establish. As Eady J said in his judgment, although in theory malice can be inferred from a dominant improper motive, he was not aware of a single instance where that had been the case.


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Instructing Solicitors

Claimant in person; Civil Aviation Authority Solicitor for the CAA