BNP libel claim thrown out

A libel claim brought by a British National Party member over a leaflet published when he stood as a candidate in a local election was struck out by a judge because of abuse of process.

BNP member Sidney Chaney had sued Searchlight Information Services and journalist Gerry Gable, who edits the anti-fascist magazine Searchlight, as well as Mr Gable's wife, who had nothing to do with publication of the leaflet.

The leaflet referred to Mr Chaney's correspondence with Frank Beck, who was serving five life sentences for sexual offences against children.

But Mr Justice Tugendhat struck out his action for two reasons.

The first was that Mr Chaney had failed to obey an order to pay costs of more than £22,000 which the defendants had incurred – he had repeatedly claimed that relatives in Australia would arrive and pay the costs for him.

The second was that Mr Chaney's distribution of a statement made by a defence witness, which was filed with the court but had not yet been put in as evidence, was an abuse of process.

Mr Justice Tugendhat held, in a decision on March 15, that Mr Chaney had not brought the proceedings to clear his name. By circulating the witness statement, which included information which reflected badly the witness and himself, he had demonstrated that he was prepared to blacken his own name in order to discredit the witness.

Mr Chaney had also written to the witness threatening to circulate the statement – although he had already done so.

Mr Justice Tugendhat said Mr Chaney had failed to conduct the case in accordance with the overriding objective of the Civil Procedure Rules, which govern the conduct of civil litigation, to enable the court to deal with cases justly.

The judge also refused Mr Chaney permission to appeal.

Mr Chaney started the proceedings in April 2005, suing Searchlight Information Services, Mr Gable, and his wife.

The case against Ms Gable, who had played no part in the publication of the leaflet, was struck out in February 2006. At the end of May 2006, a default costs certificate for £18,136, plus interest, was issued in respect of Mrs Gable's costs.

In July, Mr Chaney lost an application for further information following the filing of a witness statement, and was ordered to pay the defendant's costs of £1,200, plus VAT.

Mr Chaney subsequently applied to suspend the default costs certificate, saying he had relatives coming from Australia who could pay his costs.

The application was refused and he was ordered to pay further defendants' costs of £1,500 plus VAT.

In mid-October Mr Chaney asked for the postponement of a scheduled hearing, saying he had suffered an injury.

He subsequently claimed on a number of occasions that he was ill and unable to attend court hearings, although the only medical evidence he produced was a prescription for a pain-killer which can be bought over the counter.

On November 10, Mr Justice Eady stayed the claim and ordered Mr Chaney to pay the outstanding costs of £22,130 by December 31.

During the hearing the judge saw part of a Channel 5 documentary called "OAPs on Asbos", which featured Mr Chaney, and was broadcast in 2005.

In the documentary, as he explained how he defrauded banks of more than £100,000 by opening credit card accounts in the names of his pets, Mr Chaney demonstrated to the camera how he gained the sympathy of bank staff by feigning frailty and illness.

Mr Chaney, who did not attend that hearing, and had claimed again that relatives in Australia would be able to pay the costs, then threatened to distribute the statement made by one of the defendants' witnesses, although such use is prohibited by the CPR.

Despite warnings from the defendants' lawyers, he wrote to the Crown Prosecution Service, quoting from the statement, and wrote an open letter to all nationalists using information from the statement.

The defendants were represented by Guy Vassal-Adams of Doughty Street Chambers, instructed by Mishcon de Reya.

 

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