Benji Pell in right-to-see court documents row

Former Middlesex and England cricketer Phil Edmonds has become embroiled
in a legal battle with former freelance news tipster Benjamin Pell.

The row is about Pell's right to see and have copies of
documents such as skeleton arguments which are put into court during the
course of litigation.

Edmonds, now a multimillionaire businessman, who lives with his
writer wife Frances in west London, is involved with a firm which has
reached a controversial oil exploration deal in Southern Sudan, an area
where French oil giant Total claims to have all the exploration rights.

Generally, court staff and barristers have been happy to let Pell, a
well-known figure in the Royal Courts of Justice, have copies of
documents, statements and judgments.

But when he asked for a copy of a skeleton argument put before the court
in the case of Total E & P Soudan SA v Edmonds & Others, his request was
refused by the former sportsman's solicitors, Williams, Holden,
Cooklin, Gibbons, according to a report on The First Post website on
October 11.

Pell argues that as a member of the public he is entitled to the
documents, particularly as he offered to pay photocopying charges.
He has now asked media law specialist firm David Price Solicitors and
Advocates to represent him in the dispute.

Meanwhile, Pell is also seeking the Court of Appeal's consent to
attend the hearing of the appeal in the privacy case involving Canadian
folk singer Loreena McKennitt and her former friend, the author Niema
Ash.

Ash is appealing against Mr Justice Eady's decision that her book,
entitled Travels with Loreena McKennitt: My Life as a Friend, breached
the singer's privacy.

In May this year Lords Justice Ward and Richards accepted at a hearing
for permission to appeal that the case raised a number of important and
unsettled legal issues which warranted consideration by a full Court of
Appeal.

These included the balance between Miss McKennitt's rights in privacy
and Ms Ash's right to freedom of expression, the question of whether
there could be a cause of action in "false privacy", the extent to which
further information could be published about subjects already in the
public domain, and the ambit of any public interest defence.

The trial itself was held in private.

Pell argues that the appeal should be in public - even in family
cases, he says, appeals are heard in public, but are subject to
reporting restrictions.
There was nothing confidential involved in the legal issues which would
be argued at the appeal, he said.

His only difficulty is that Ms Ash is being represented by David Price
Solicitors and Advocates, which means that he will have to instruct
another law firm to represent him in any application for the appeal to
be held in public.

Mr Pell is also complaining to the National Union of Journalists
about the case of investigative reporter Robin Ackroyd, who faces a
fresh appeal by Mersey Care NHS Trust over his refusal to disclose the
sources of a story he wrote for the Daily Mirror in 1999 about the way
in which Moors murderer Ian Brady was being treated at Ashworth High
Security Hospital.

Lawyers for the NHS Trust have given Pell copies of all the written
submissions they have made to the court in relation to the appeal - but
Ackroyd's representatives have refused to do so.

Pell is understood to have protested to the NUJ, as well as to the
union's solicitors, Thompsons, and to Ackroyd himself.

MORE ON THIS STORY : 

Tags: 

Sign up for our free weekly digital magazine, Press Gazette Journalism Weekly, and daily newsletter
To contact Press Gazette with a story call 0207 936 6433
or email pged@pressgazette.co.uk
To advertise, please call 0207 936 6764.