Last month, the TCC considered a relatively unusual application for TCC business in GB Mineral Holdings Ltd v Short: an application for committal for contempt of court. This related to false statements made in the claimant’s reply and defence to counterclaim. The court documents were signed with a statement of truth authorised by an individual (Mr Short), an employee of the claimant.
HHJ Coulson set out the approach to be followed in such applications:
“First, is there a strong prima facie case of dishonesty? If yes, am I satisfied that the case is one in which the public interest requires that the committal proceedings be brought, and that the applicant is a proper person to bring them? Thereafter, I consider questions of disruption, oppression and proportionality, both in the context of the application as a whole and specifically as to the timing of any committal proceedings.”
In short, HHJ Coulson decided that there was a strong prima facie case of dishonesty, a strong public interest in bringing the committal proceedings and that to avoid disruption to the trial, any committal proceedings would not be held until after the trial.
HHJ Coulson finishes his judgment with a salutary footnote for the legal profession: even though Mr Short authorised the signing of the documents containing the false statements, the actual signing was carried out by the claimant’s solicitor. HHJ Coulson noted that it is “… surprising that, in modern litigation, a firm of solicitors can still take a statement of truth so lightly”.
A reminder courtesy of the TCC for everyone involved in dispute resolution of the significant perils of not taking a statement of truth seriously.