Whether disclosed documents could be used in separate proceedings overseas


Weekly Updates 28/14 and 16/14 have set out the background to this case. The defendant, the Serious Fraud Office, disclosed certain documents to the claimant, who now wishes to use those documents in a pending appeal in separate proceedings in Guernsey. The permission of the court was needed to use the documents in that way. Eder J acknowledged that the documents in question were potentially relevant and that the claimant’s desire to use the documents went beyond his own private interests because there was a very strong public interest in discovering the truth. Nevertheless, he refused permission for the following reasons:

  1. The English court should not leave the evaluation of the likely significance of the documents entirely to the Guernsey courts. The evidence before the judge suggested that the documents in question were far from being “crucial” or “decisive” to the Guernsey proceedings.
  2. It was also a “very weighty consideration” that the documents contained information relating to a criminal investigation carried out by the SFO (including the methodology employed by the SFO and its interaction with the Guernsey authorities). There was a very strong public interest against permitting the use of such documents for collateral purposes.
  3. Similarly, the documents were provided by the Guernsey authorities pursuant to a specific request from the SFO for mutual legal assistance. There is a public interest in not jeopardising the willingness of foreign states to cooperate in respect of similar criminal investigations in the future.