DAC gets judge barred from hearing

The Court of Appeal has ruled Lord Justice Evans ineligible to hear a case brought by more than 3,000 South African miners after Davies Arnold Cooper filed an application to have him taken off the case.

Lawyers see his disqualification as a direct repercussion from the embarrassment caused to the judiciary by Lord Hoffmann's failure to declare an interest during extradition hearings into Chile's former dictator Augusto Pinochet.

Lord Justice Evans has been disqualified from sitting on the case after Davies Arnold Cooper, solicitors for the defendant, English mining company Cape, objected to his appointment.

Lord Justice Evans, who presided over a Court of Appeal hearing last year which gave five miners jurisdiction to bring their case in England, volunteered to hear a second appeal on the same matter brought by the rest of the claimants.

He then allocated the case to himself without consulting the Lord Justice of the Queen's Bench Division.

Lord Justice Evans, a senior Court of Appeal judge, is not accused of concealing his interests.

Last week, Lord Justice Morritt, presiding in the Court of Appeal, disqualified Lord Justice Evans, without giving reasons, except to say it was “sensible” to start afresh with another judge.

The miners, advised by Leigh Day & Co and Greater Manchester firm John Pickering & Partners, are seeking compensation for asbestos-related diseases allegedly contracted as a consequence of working for Cape.

Martyn Day, senior partner at Leigh Day & Co, which represents 2,000 of the miners, says: “It is quite clear that the courts are going to be ultra-sensitive to the allocation of judges in light of what happened to Hoffmann.

“It is the first time in my career that I have seen an application to have a judge taken out of a case and I think that what we are seeing is the beginning of the repercussions and implications of Hoffmann.

“We are now going to see this happen more often.”

The High Court rejected the case of the 3,000 miners, criticising Leigh Day for failing to make clear the number of potential claimants at the first hearing.

The miners' appeal against that decision will be heard on 5 and 6 October. Several of the miners have already died.