Judge deprecates LiPs for impugning opposing lawyers’ integrity

Thompsell: Extreme displeasure

The High Court has sharply criticised two litigants in person for making “baseless accusations” that impugned the integrity of their opponent’s legal team.

If such allegations had been made by a barrister or a solicitor, they would have been censured by the court and faced disciplinary proceedings, said Nicholas Thompsell, sitting as a deputy High Court judge.

In Trafalgar Multi Asset Trading Company Ltd v Hadley & Ors [2023] EWHC 651 (Ch), he was hearing an application – brought by three of 13 defendants – for a lengthy adjournment of a four-week trial over an alleged conspiracy to injure the claimant financially.

Last year, the Court of Appeal overturned a High Court decision and issued summary judgment on a bribery claim brought against four of the defendants. Applications for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court have been lodged.

Before Mr Thompsell, the applicants – represented by two of the defendants in person – sought the adjournment on the basis that the claimant misrepresented the evidential position at the summary judgment hearing and before the Court of Appeal, such that the latter’s decision was obtained by way of misrepresentation.

The judge explained that the “overarching” complaint was that matters put in evidence by the claimant or its counsel were “demonstrably false” and the claimant either must have known this or were reckless as to the truthfulness of the representations.

The judge comprehensively rejected this, dismissing the application as being “utterly without merit” after finding not a single statement to be a misrepresentation.

“Allegations made against the claimant and its legal team have proved to be utterly baseless. If these allegations had been made by a barrister or a solicitor, that person would [be] facing disciplinary proceedings.

“The applicants are not subject to any such disciplinary sanction but I will nevertheless express the court’s extreme displeasure that they have chosen to bring an action based on baseless accusations of wrongdoing on the behalf of the claimant and its legal team impugning the professional integrity of the professionals involved.

“I request that this judgment but put in front of the Supreme Court, if it is still considering the application made to it for leave to appeal.”

Mr Thompsell also ordered the applicants to pay costs on the indemnity basis.

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