Full case report

Pal v General Medical Council and others

Reference [2004] EWHC 1485 (QB)
Court Queen's Bench Division (Birmingham District Registry)

Judge HHJ Charles Harris QC

Date of Judgment 27 May 2004


Summary

Defamation – Libel – Data Protection Act 1998 – Human Rights Act 1998 – Article 8 – General Medical Council – Summary Judgment – CPR Part 24 – Costs


Facts

The Claimant was a doctor who had made a number of complaints to the GMC in relation to the treatment of elderly patients. The Defendants expressed concerns about whether the Claimant had an underlying mental health problem. The Claimant sued. After various procedural delays and amendments the Defendants applied for summary judgment under part 24 of the Claimant’s claims under the Data Protection Act 1998; the Human Rights Act 1998 and in defamation.


Issue

Whether summary judgment should be granted pursuant to part 24.


Held

dismissing the application. In respect of all the causes of action it could not be said that there were no reasonable prospects of the Claimant succeeding. Further data protection was an important and developing area of law. In respect of the defamation claim the test for summary judgment was higher and it would not be perverse for the jury to find that the words complained of bore the defamatory meaning alleged by the Claimant: Alexander v The Arts Council of Wales [2001] 1 WLR 1840 and Jameel v The Wall Street Journal [2003] EWCA Civ 1694 applied.


Comment

The Judge was unimpressed with both the submissions of law put forward by the GMC (which told the court that it had been drafting its data protection policy on retention of information for four years) and the costs. He considered that the Defendants £84,000 costs schedule for a summary judgment application would be “difficult to justify.”