Readers of the Carmarthenshire and Llanelli Heralds will be familiar with columnist Cadno's excellent turn of phrase, and this week's piece was no exception;
Cadno’s special case
May it please the Court:
I appear on behalf of the Defence in this matter. My learned friend Mr Polecat appears for the Claimant, Mr Fatcat, and he is in turn instructed by Messrs Rook and Weasel.
Mr Fatcat’s claim is as follows: he alleges that my client has not only grossly impugned his character occasioning a serious libel, but, furthermore, has continued to point out that – in the manner of the Emperor in Hans Christian Andersen’s beloved tale – not only has no clothes but glories in his nakedness.
The libel case was decided by Mr Justice Owl-Botherer, who concluded that Mr Fatcat had been the subject of a libel made by my client and was eligible for the receipt of damages and costs set at a level that any sane person would have known was both unaffordable and irrecoverable. Needless to say, Mr Fatcat has taken steps to enforce the judgement in his favour.
It is, however, now alleged by Mr Fatcat that, in breach of undertakings given previously to the Court, my client has published certain information which places her in contempt of Court.
Since the alleged breach has taken place recently, let us examine what that breach might be.
The Herald reported and was able to verify earlier this year that when Mr Fatcat said that offers to settle my client’s liability to him had not been made, he was in fact being economical with the truth.
Indeed, they were able to publish evidence that showed that Mr Fatcat’s words – given on the record to several news outlets without qualification – were not only untrue but untrue with knobs on.
Offers to settle had been made. It matters not one jot whether those offers were acceptable to Mr Fatcat or not, contrary to the bald assertions either made by him or made on his behalf, they did exist.
Now, even if it was the case that the disclosure of the offers to settle the liability breached an undertaking to the Court, I would remind the Court that they who come to equity must do so with clean hands.
If exposing Mr Fatcat’s calumny regarding the offers made to settle my client’s liability to him breached an undertaking of the Court, I would suggest such a breach was rendered inevitable and in the interests of natural justice by the conduct of Mr Fatcat.
So, let us look at a further possibility.
Was the existence of offers to settle the alleged libel case made by Mr Fatcat before his employers decided to bankroll his countersuit against my client a breach of an undertaking given to the Court?
This is far more likely.
But even if that disclosure represented a breach of such an undertaking, let us consider the position. It is trite law that inter parties communications usually attract privilege, particularly where and when they relate to offers to settle made both pre-action and during litigation’s course. However, that there is an intrinsic public interest in the existence of the costs indemnity and the circumstances that gave rise to it being granted is demonstrated by the decision of the Wales Audit Office to issue a report in the Public Interest determining that Mr Fatcat’s employer’s grant of such a costs indemnity was unlawful.
Mr Fatcat’s assistant, the Right Reverend Vole, has recently appeared on the TV – yes, M’lud, a popular device of televisual entertainment akin to a magic lantern – to say that the WAO were very naughty indeed in ruling Mr Fatcat’s employer’s actions unlawful. It remains a fact, however, that the Right-on Reverend Vole held precisely the reverse view in opposition. An impartial observer might conclude, M’Lud, that the Right Reverend’s protestant protestations should be taken with a massive pinch of salt. Certainly, M’Lud, that is what the Head of the WAO decided when he bashed that benighted bishop in print.
Yes M’Lud, ‘naked opportunism’ is such an ugly phrase.
Moreover, Mr Fatcat’s employer has never once challenged the decision of the WAO or tested it in Court. And that decision, M’lud, cannot be because they are afraid of incurring further costs in Mr Fatcat’s favour at cost to the public. No, M’Lud, they have not challenged it in case they lose. For if they lose, rather than sulkily pretend the ruling did not exist, then Mr Fatcat’s chums across the length and breadth of the land would curse him softly before they went to sleep each night.
So, it appears as though the Court is in fact being asked to pop a genie back in a bottle.
The truth about Mr Fatcat’s search to settle the action in my client’s favour is out there, as is the truth about the Right Reverend Vole’s moral outrage both in opposition and in power.
Both are matters plainly in the public interest. Mr Fatcat’s determination to fight this case to the ends of the earth is powered by the inability of his employers to say ‘no’ to him or to stop spending money on his behalf.
Yes, M’Lud, there is indeed an investigation ongoing by Dyfed Powys Police. That allegation is that by publishing material about Mr Fatcat, for example the existence of the offers to settle his claim against her, the existence of offers to settle, trying to establish precisely what Mr Fatcat’s employers think they are doing with public money, that this is in some way harassing Mr Fatcat.
Yes M’Lud, you might well ask how publishing material in the public interest can harass Mr Fatcat. He cannot feel aggrieved at having his erroneous memory as to the existence of those offers to settle his claim being corrected; neither can he be aggrieved that the existence of offers he made to settle the action were drawn to the attention of the Right Reverend Vole and his Church of Latter Day Saints when they would otherwise have been unaware of their existence; neither can he be aggrieved at the suggestion that scarce public resources would be better expended elsewhere.
Yes, M’Lud, I entirely agree.From the Carmarthenshire and Llanelli Heralds, republished with kind permission
‘What are these people doing with public money?’
I am grateful to the Court for that indication.
Yes M’Lud: it really is too good for them.
|Cadno, the fox|