Litigation Recent Decisions 02/04/96

Contempt of court after transfer of action

Attorney General v (1) Sarah Jane Limbrick (2) Tim Kelsey (3) John Witherow (4) The Times Newspaper (1996).

QBD (Garland J) 20/3/96.

Summary: Where a county court action is transferred to the High Court, what particulars of the action may be inspected for the purposes of publication under RSC O.63 r.4 without involving a contempt of court.

Application by the Attorney General to restrain the defendant from publishing or otherwise disclosing or using any information derived from the court file relating to an action transferred from the county court to the High Court other than information contained in the county court summons. The first defendant, a free-lance journalist, made a practice of inspecting writs in the Central Office of the Royal Courts of Justice as was her right. She came across a county court action transferred into the High Court under s.42 County Courts Act 1984 per the High Court and County Courts Jurisdiction Order 1991 and RSC O.78. Annexed to the county court summons were the Particulars of Claim, a Schedule of Loss but not the medical report. The first defendant should not have been handed the schedule. The only information she extracted from the schedule was the total amount claimed which should have been shown on the face of the summons if the particulars of claim and schedule had been filed at the time the proceedings were commenced. The action was a claim for medical negligence resulting in the death of Alan Bowler. The deceased's daughter, on learning from the second defendant that he wanted to run a story concerning the action, commenced proceedings to restrain the fourth defendant from using the information contained in the particulars of claim. When the matter came before Sir John Wood he took the view that the daughter had no locus standi to bring proceedings for contempt. The Attorney General was then invited to consider doing so and brought the present action.