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11.09.15

Law firm judicially reviews Court over finding of fraud against them in judgment

In MRH Solicitors Ltd v Manchester County Court and others [2015] EWHC 1795 (Admin) (http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2015/1795.html), a solicitors firm brought a judicial review against the County Court on the basis of comments made about them by a Recorder in his Judgment.

Following a four day trial in October 2014, Mr Recorder Osborne dismissed a personal injury claim on the basis that the road traffic accident in question had been staged and the claim fraudulent.  In giving his Judgment, he found that the solicitors acting for the Claimant, and two hire companies from whom he had leased vehicles, had been parties to the fraud.  The solicitors and the hire companies, who had not been party to the proceedings, brought a judicial review against the Court, seeking to have parts of the judgment quashed because their integrity had been unfairly impugned.

The Court held that the Recorder should have been ‘extremely cautious’ before making such a conclusive finding in circumstances where the parties concerned had not had an opportunity to rebut the allegations.  The Court could not quash elements of the judgment: only an appeal court can do that.  Its only power was to state that the Recorder had not been entitled make a conclusive finding of dishonesty or fraud and that the parties concerned should not be treated as having such a finding made against them.  However, it considered that the correct course for the parties was not to judicially review the judgment, but to apply to be joined to the proceedings pursuant to CPR 19.2.  They could then have made an application for the offending passages of the judgment to be removed.  If either application had been refused, this would have created an appealable decision.

Comment

It is not uncommon for the conduct of third parties to be considered by the courts in deciding claims.  A court judgment cannot be subject to a defamation claim, but in severe cases such as this, offended parties might apply to be joined, in the manner outlined by the Administrative Court.


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