C was a senior jockey. In October 2008, at the conclusion of disciplinary proceedings, the Disciplinary Penal of the regulator, the British Horseracing Authority, held that C had been guilty on four occasions in 2004 and 2005 of deliberately not riding his horse on its merits and of conspiring with others to commit a corrupt practice. A disqualification of 4 years was imposed, but suspended pending a possible appeal. C continued to ride in the meantime.
Less than two weeks after the Panel’s decision on penalty, BHA Stewards at Southwell found C to have deliberately not ridden another horse, RASCAL IN THE MIX, on its merits. The following day, 5 November 2008, C was interviewed on D’s racing TV channel, and it was suggested to him that the latest occasion was one of ‘many examples … during the last four or five years’ of his employing ‘these kinds of tactics’ and he had been ‘caught’. In October 2009 C issued proceedings for libel against the broadcaster.
In the meantime, C appealed the decision of the Disciplinary Panel. The BHA Appeal Board dismissed his appeal. He sought judicial review at common law of this decision. His claim was dismissed by Stadlen J in a judgment handed down on 12 March 2010.
D’s defence to C’s libel claim pleaded qualified privilege by statute for what was alleged to be a fair and accurate report of the findings of the BHA authorities and honest comment on those findings. Alternatively, D pleaded honest comment and/or justification based on the contention that C had done the things that the BHA authorities had found that he had done.
D now applied for C’s claim to be dismissed or stayed on four grounds: (i) D was bound to succeed on the defences of qualified privilege and/or honest comment; (ii) if there was any arguable claim to which these defences were not a sufficient answer, th residue did not raise a real and substantial complaint and was an abuse of process; (iii) C had no reputation worth vindicating; (iv) the action should be dismissed as an abuse because it sought re-litigation of the issues determined against C in the disciplinary and judicial review proceedings.
Part of C’s riposte was that he had found fresh evidence relating to several of the impugned rides, which altered the picture, and that he was intending to reopen the disciplinary process on those grounds. D responded by adding, in the alternative to the above, an application that the libel action be stayed pending an application by C to reopen the disciplinary process.