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Court: Queen's Bench Division (Media & Communications List)

Court dismisses disclosure applications in matter regarding costs

Rudd v Bridle & Anor [2019] EWHC 1986 (QB)

This case concerned applications made by the claimant following an earlier trial at which Warby J made orders for costs. These orders were that the claimant pay the company’s costs on a standard basis, but that the defendant indemnify him against that liability and pay all the costs of his claim against the company, to be assessed on the indemnity basis.

The claimant made applications seeking disclosure of the identity of the individuals, companies or entities who had financed or provided financial support to the defendants during the litigation, and related documents. Secondly, the claimant sought an order for the disclosure of three documents mentioned in a witness statement.

Considering the evidence, the court held that it had not been shown any authority that supported the view that a third-party disclosure order would be appropriate in the circumstances of the case. In any event, the court held that it would not grant one as a matter of discretion.

Concerning the claimant’s witness statement application, the court disagreed with the claimant’s interpretation of the documents referred to in the disputed witness statement. The court held that it would not order disclosure in any event given that the purpose of the application was unrelated to the charging order proceedings.

The court dismissed both applications and invited written submissions for consequential matters that may arise.

Cancer doctor wins ground-breaking data protection claim

Rudd v Bridle [2019] EWHC 893 (QB)

The case discusses to what extent the claimant’s personal data was exempt from subject access provisions.The Claimant, a consultant physician who specialises in the science of exposure to asbestos, brought a claim pursuant to section 7 of the Data Protection Act 1998 against John Bridle, who has spent his career working in the asbestos industry. Mr Bridle had made a complaint to the General Medical Council alleging that Dr Rudd had falsified the risks to health associated with chrysotile asbestos in expert reports. Mr Bridle also made unfounded allegations to MPs and communicated with unnamed allies in the asbestos industry about ways to discredit Dr Rudd. The Claimant sought information about the identities of the third parties who had been collaborating with Mr Bridle.Warby J found that Mr Bridle, rather than his company J&S Bridle Limited, was the data controller and that none of the claimed exemptions (Journalistic, Regulatory Activity or Litigation Privilege) applied. Mr Bridle has been ordered to comply with section 7 DPA by providing further information including descriptions of recipients of personal data, the identities of persons who had been communicating with Mr Bridle about the Claimant and any information as to the sources of the personal data.

Online “troll” made to pay £100,000 in libel damages

Suttle v Walker [2019] EWHC 396 (QB)

An online “troll” who started a Facebook “hate campaign” which falsely accused an animal lover of kicking her dog has been forced to pay £100,000 in libel and harassment damages and costs.

The Claimant was wrongly accused, of beating her dog and posted a video on Facebook and YouTube which received more than 130,000 views. This lead to a ‘torrent’ of abuse online which lead to threats of violence forcing the claimant to leave her job.

After weighing the evidence, Mr Justice Nicklin, awarded the Claimant £40,000 in general damages and £10,405 special damages and ordered the defendant to also pay the legal costs. He also granted a permanent injunction to prevent a repetition of the harassment and libels. 

The judge found this to be ‘a very serious and nasty case of online harassment’ and considered that this case could be served as ‘a valuable example to those who think that they can wage campaigns of harassment against a person online with impunity from behind the anonymity of a webpage or social media account’.

Newspaper articles do not link allegations against a claimant and historic council failings: summary judgment entered

Carruthers v Associated Newspapers Ltd [2019] EWHC 33 (QB)

The court held a preliminary hearing in a matter involving claims for libel, misuse of private information and alleged breaches of the Data Protection Act 1998. This arose from publications by the defendants about the claimant who was, at the time of publication, Deputy Assistant Director of Children’s Safeguarding and Head of Services for Children In Need of Support and Protection at Haringey Council. She contended that, as a result of the publications, she was suspended and subsequently resigned.
The court firstly considered meaning and fact/opinion. It concluded that the hypothetical ordinary reasonable reader, having read the whole of the relevant article, would appreciate the two strands of the articles in relation to the allegations against the claimant and the historic failings of the Council in the cases of Victoria Climbie and Baby P. Therefore the reader could not conclude that the claimant was in any way connected with the cases, other than the fact that she worked for the Council.
Secondly, ruling for the defendants, the court entered summary judgment in relation to the claims for defamation, stating that the claimant had no real prospect of success in defeating the defence of honest opinion. This is because the court concluded that the facts admitted by the claimant in her witness statement were sufficient to allow the hypothetical honest person to express the opinions in the articles based upon those admitted facts.

Libel defendant cannot defend imputation by proving truth of another

Price v MGN Ltd [2018] EWHC 3014 (QB)

The Court held that the articles bore the meaning that claimant former Chief Constable had been party to the illegal interception of a journalist’s mobile records. Furthermore, the defendant could not succeed on the basis that other allegations in the articles were true, as that was contrary to established principles that where a distinct defamatory imputation was complained about, the defendant could not defend that imputation by proving the truth of another.
The Court held that the articles bore the meaning that claimant former Chief Constable had been party to the illegal interception of a journalist’s mobile records. Furthermore, the defendant could not succeed on the basis that other allegations in the articles were true, as that was contrary to established principles that where a distinct defamatory imputation was complained about, the defendant could not defend that imputation by proving the truth of another. Hugh Tomlinson QC was involved in this case.