3rd Party Disclosure in Libel Actions

By mhartman

SUCCESSFULLY RESISTED NON-PARTY DISCLOSURE OF PERSONAL MEDICAL RECORDS

LIBEL : NON-PARTY DISCLOSURE: REPRESENTATION OF THE PEOPLE ACT 1983 s.106 : CIVIL PROCEDURE RULES 1998 r.31.17(3)(a), Pt 31 r.31.17(3)(a), r.31.17
HELAL UDDIN ABBAS (Claimant) v SHAH YOUSUF (Defendant) & SALEHA ALI (Respondent) (2014)
[2014] EWHC 662 (QB)
QBD (Tugendhat J) 18/03/2014

DEFAMATION – CIVIL PROCEDURE
An application by the defendant to a libel action for a non-party disclosure order was premature: he had not served a defence, meaning that he had as yet no “case” for the purposes of the CPR r.31.17(3)(a).

Also considered whether the disclosure sought, being personal medical records of the Respondent, were properly disclosable where, amongst other matters, the documents were confidential and the Applicant had not shown a public interest reason for granting such disclosure at all.

The libel action had arisen from an advertisement published in a newspaper called the London Bangla, of which S was the editor. The meaning which C had attributed to the relevant words (and which was not in dispute for the purposes of the instant application) was that he had “a history of committing violent assaults upon women close to him, in particular upon his former wife”. C’s former wife had denied that he had been violent towards her. At the time of the publication of the advert, C had been the Labour candidate for the office of Mayor of Tower Hamlets. As a result of the publication, S was charged with an offence under the Representation of the People Act 1983 s.106. However, the CPS discontinued the prosecution. They stated as follows in a letter to S: “Shortly before the trial I obtained medical notes of a witness in the case. This material undermined the prosecution case and caused its discontinuance”. The CPS would not disclose the identity of the witness referred to, but S believed that witness to be C’s former wife. He sought the disclosure of medical records held by her GP, asserting that they would provide him with a defence of justification.

HELD: S’s application had to fail on the basis that it was premature. He had not as yet pleaded a defence to C’s claim and until he had done so he had no “case” within the meaning of the CPR r.31.17(3)(a) which the documents sought could support (see para.30 of judgment).

Application refused

Counsel:
For the claimant: Robert Dougans
For the defendant: In person
For the respondent: Michael Hartman

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