Carnduff v Inspector Rock and Chief Constable West Midlands Police: CA 11 May 2001

The claimant was a police informer. Over several years he had given and been paid for information. He claimed that on one occasion he had given information which had led to the arrest of a major criminal, but the police denied that any information from him had formed a significant element in his arrest. They did not pay him, and he claimed in contract. The claim was struck out on the basis that it was embarrassing or abusive under rule 3.4, and he appealed.
Held: The appeal was dismissed. No court could investigate such a claim without becoming involved in examining in detail delicate and sensitive issues which would transfer the business of investigating and catching serious criminals into the public glare. It would, in this case, but not necessarily in every such case, be against public policy to allow that public investigation. The action should be stayed because no disclosure could be made of relevant documents in such a way as to enable the action to be properly determined.
Laws LJ said: ‘It seems to me that these matters cannot be litigated consistently with the public interest; and if that is so there is a plain jurisdiction to strike out the claim as embarrassing or abusive under CPR r3.4. See what is involved. If the disputes which they generate were to be resolved fairly by reference to the relevant evidence – and there is no other legitimate judicial means of proceedings – the court would be required to examine in detail the operational methods of the police as they related to the particular investigation in question.’ and ‘it is to my mind inevitable that the court’s duty would be to hold that the public interest in withholding the evidence about it outweighed the countervailing public interest in having the claim litigated on the available relevant evidence. In reality such a position could only be avoided if the police made comprehensive admissions which absolved the court from the duty to enter into any of these issues. But a case which can only be justly tried if one side holds up its hands cannot, in truth, be justly tried at all.’
Lord Justice Waller, Lord Justice Laws And Lord Justice Jonathan Parker
Times 30-May-2001, Gazette 21-Jun-2001, [2001] EWCA Civ 680, [2001] 1 WLR 1786
Civil Procedure Rules 3.4
England and Wales
Cited by:
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CitedBelhaj and Another v Director of Public Prosecutions and Another SC 4-Jul-2018
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Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Updated: 30 July 2021; Ref: scu.78909