Reference:  EWHC 1496 (QB)
Court: Queen's Bench Division
Judge: Eady J
Date of judgment: 23 Jun 2006
Summary: Defamation - Libel - Absolute Privilege- Immunity from Suit- Expert Report prepared for Court proceedings - Abuse of Process - Whether the hearing should take place in private- Whether an Order should be made to restrict the use of disclosed documents
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Adam Speker QC (Defendant)
Instructing Solicitors: Claimant in Person; Hempsons for the Defendant
In December 2004 D was appointed by Order of the York County Court to prepare an expert report for family proceedings involving C and to provide a copy of the report to the lead solicitors in the case. C attended upon D for an interview and signed a consent form. D’s report was sent to the solicitor and passed on to C who objected to its contents. He sent email complaints to the GMC, NHS Complaints Commission and D’s clinic before issuing a claim form for libel in November 2005. Despite this D gave his evidence in the York CC proceedings in December 2005 and then applied to strike out the libel claim.
(1) Whether the hearing should take place in private
(2) Whether the words complained of were published on an occasion of absolute privilege and/or D was immune from suit
(3) Whether there was wider publication
(4) Whether the claim was also an abuse of process
(1) It was unnecessary for the hearing to take place in private but an order would be made under CPR 31.22 to restrict the use of D’s report about C.
(2) The report was published on an occasion of absolute privilege and/or D was immune from suit.
(3) There was no evidence of wider publication.
(4) Having held as the Court did in (2) above it was not necessary for the Court to determine whether the claim was an abuse of process nor could it come to a definitive conclusion on the evidence.
This is a straight forward application of the rule of law that expert reports prepared for court hearings are covered by absolute privilege and/or the Defendant is immune from suit.