Gentoo Group Ltd (formerly Sunderland Housing Co Ltd) v Hanratty

Reference: [2008] EWHC 2328 (QB)

Court: Queen's Bench Division

Judge: Eady J

Date of judgment: 8 Oct 2008

Summary: Defamation - Libel - Harassment - Mode of trial - Judge and jury - Prolonged examination of documents - s.69 Supreme Court Act 1981

Instructing Solicitors: Olswang for G; H appeared in person


The applicant (G) had issued defamation and harassment proceedings against H in relation to material published on a website and associated forum. G applied to vary the mode of trial from judge and jury to judge alone. G submitted that the case would involve prolonged and careful scrutiny of the documentary evidence and the issues could not be resolved in a broad-brush way.


Whether there should be trial by judge alone


The judge allowed the application, holding that there would be a prolonged examination of documents which could not conveniently be made with a jury, and that the Court should not exercise its discretion to order trial with a jury: Aitken v Preston [1997] EMLR 417 applied.


Eady J expressed the view that “to attempt to reach a fair solution in the present case with a jury grappling with so many different documents would be something of a ‘nightmare’”.