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A House of Commons lawyer has been found to have abused the court process in his wife's libel case against Associated Newspapers
Michael Carpenter was found by Mr Justice Gray to have disabled a key witness in the libel trial, with the intention of withholding evidence from the defence. Mr Carpenter, a trained barrister working as a lawyer at the House of Commons, is not registered with the Bar Council. According to his former employer, the Treasury Solicitor's Department, he still works as a lawyer at the House of Commons. Susan Carpenter brought libel proceedings against The Mail on Sunday, owned by Associated Newspapers, in January 1999 after the paper had written an article which said that she had made embarrassing sexual advances towards builders working on her house. The case was recently struck out due to what the judge found was Mr Carpenter's abuse of the court process. The abuse relates to an affidavit obtained by Mr Carpenter from one of the builders concerned, which effectively disabled the builder as a witness in The Mail on Sunday libel.
The reasons why Mr Carpenter, on behalf of his wife, procured an affidavit from Mr Clarke amount to an abuse of the process
Before suing the paper, Mrs Carpenter had brought a libel action against the builders' employers after they sent her a fax which read: "None of our employees wish to return to your site because of the embarrassing sexual advances you made towards our foreman." That libel action was settled. As part of the settlement, Bob Clarke, the foreman in question, agreed to swear an affidavit saying: "I wish to make it clear that every one of these allegations is untrue." After the settlement, Mrs Carpenter instructed Peter Carter-Ruck and Partners on the ensuing libel claim against The Mail on Sunday in 1999, but the case was struck out in late November last year due to Mr Carpenter's actions. At the time the affidavit was obtained, Mr Carpenter "had, in effect, taken over the conduct of his wife's claim," found Judge Gray. He added: "I am entirely satisfied that a significant reason for obtaining an affidavit from Mr Clarke was to prevent Mr Clarke assisting the present defendant with his evidence. "The reasons why Mr Carpenter, on behalf of his wife, procured an affidavit from Mr Clarke amount, in my judgement, to an abuse of the process, because they attempt to disable the one witness who was in a position to advance a plea of justification." Taylor Joynson Garrett, led by partner Neil White, acted for Associated Newspapers. The Lawyer attempted to contact Mr Carpenter through the Treasury Solicitor's Department, but he was unavailable for comment.