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England and Wales High Court (Queen's Bench Division) Decisions
You are here: BAILII >> Databases >> England and Wales High Court (Queen's Bench Division) Decisions >> Reid v Price  EWHC 594 (QB) (13 March 2020)
Cite as:  EWHC 594 (QB)
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QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION
MEDIA AND COMMUNICATIONS LIST
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL
B e f o r e :
| Alexander Aristides Reid
|- and -
The Defendant did not appear and was not represented
Hearing date: 9 March 2020
Crown Copyright ©
Mr Justice Warby:
The factual and procedural background
"22. Where a party fails to appear at the hearing of an application the court may proceed in their absence: CPR r 23.11. This is a power that must be exercised in accordance with the overriding objective. ... the court should be very careful before concluding that it is appropriate to proceed in the absence of a litigant in person who is seeking for the ?rst time to adjourn a hearing: Fox v Graham Group Ltd (26 July 2001) (Neuberger J); SmithKline Beecham Ltd v GSKline Ltd  EWHC 169 (Ch) (Arnold J), para 6. That is not the situation here, however. The defendant has not sought an adjournment …
23. Where a litigant fails to appear without giving a reason it is necessary to consider ?rst whether they have had proper notice of the hearing date and the matters, including the evidence, to be considered at the hearing. If satis?ed that such notice has been given, the court must examine the available evidence as to the reasons why the litigant has not appeared, to see if this provides a ground for adjourning the hearing."
In Brett Wilson [14-15] I adopted those principles, and added the following which is also pertinent in this case:
"In the present case … there is another important facet to the requirement of proper notice, in the form of section 12(2) of the Human Rights Act 1998. Section 12 is engaged because the order the claimants seek involves "relief which, if granted, might a?ect the exercise of the Convention right to freedom of expression" within the meaning of section 12(1). Section 12(2) prohibits the court from granting such relief if the respondent is neither present nor represented, unless satis?ed "(a) that the applicant has taken all practicable steps to notify the respondent; or (b) that there are compelling reasons why the respondent should not be noti?ed."
"285 Restriction on proceedings and remedies
(1) At any time when … an individual has been made bankrupt the court may stay any action, execution or other legal process against the property or person of the debtor or, as the case may be, of the bankrupt.
(2) Any court in which proceedings are pending against any individual may, on proof that … he is an undischarged bankrupt, either stay the proceedings or allow them to continue on such terms as it thinks fit."
(1) The requirements of HRA s 12(2) are met, as in my judgment the claimant had taken all practicable steps to notify the defendant of this hearing. The hearing date was identified in a letter of 13 June 2019, sent by recorded delivery and by email. Mr Gir's second statement records that correspondence to the defendant went unanswered in November 2019 and that the same was true when notice of this hearing was given to the defendant by letter and email on 3 March 2020. The contact details used included the email address which the defendant had given the court when giving notice of change in March 2019, and there is no reason to doubt that the mailing address used was correct. I cannot identify any other method that could have been used to make contact with the defendant.
(2) The defendant has made no application or request for an adjournment. She has not explained her absence. She has not communicated with the Court at all. Indeed, the record shows that the defendant has not engaged with these proceedings at any time since March 2019. She did not attend before Master Gidden, when directions were given. She did not attend before Master Davison, when he struck out her Defence and entered judgment against her.
(3) Looking at the matter overall, the bankruptcy may be a partial explanation for the defendant's inactivity. But it cannot fully explain it. The defendant was not bankrupt when the directions hearing came on before Master Gidden. Nor was she bankrupt when the time came to give disclosure and exchange witness statements for trial pursuant to the directions he gave. Looking at the overall position, the inference I draw is that, at some point after service of the Defence, the defendant made a deliberate decision not to engage further with these proceedings, and she has persisted in that attitude, with knowledge that this hearing is going ahead.
(4) Mr Williams accepts, on behalf of the claimant, that any award of damages "is potentially academic", but invites me to make an award, to bring an end to these proceedings and vindicate the claimant's rights. It seems to me that there is no compelling need or reason to impose a stay on these proceedings. The claimant's wish to conclude the proceedings with a decision and order on quantum is a legitimate one. To stay the proceedings now would involve a waste of the time and costs taken up by the claimant and his legal team in preparing for this hearing.
(5) Section 285(3)(a) of the 1986 Act provides that after a bankruptcy order is made:-"no person who is a creditor of the bankrupt in respect of a debt provable in the bankruptcy shall (a) have any remedy against the property or person of the bankrupt in respect of that debt".The object of that subsection has been described as "to prevent one creditor getting his hands on part of the bankrupt's estate to the actual or potential detriment of the general body of creditors": Heating Electrical Lighting and Piping Limited (in Liquidation) v Ross  EWHC 3764 (Ch) . This provision may have the effect of automatically preventing enforcement of this judgment, otherwise than by proof in the bankruptcy. Counsel's argument at the hearing, supplemented by written submissions afterwards, suggests that this judgment will create a debt provable in the bankruptcy: see s 382(1)(b) and (2) of the 1986 Act. But it is also suggested by Mr Williams that "elements of the judgment may survive the bankruptcy process" by virtue of s 281(5), unless the Court directs otherwise. That is, as I understand it, on the footing that the damages are, to some extent, "damages in respect of personal injuries …" within the meaning of that sub-section. I do not think these are issues that it would be appropriate for me to determine at this stage. I do not propose to make a direction under s 281(5). I do consider it safest to guard against any risks of unfair prejudice to the defendant or to her creditors by means of the limited stay that I have mentioned.
"Where a judge at a hearing strikes out all or part of a party's statement of case he may enter such judgment for the other party as that party appears entitled to."
The wording resembles that of CPR r 12.11(1), which provides that where a claimant makes an application for a default judgment this shall be "such judgment as it appears to the court that the claimant is entitled to on his statement of case." That rule "enables the court to proceed on the basis of the claimant's unchallenged particulars of claim. There is no need to adduce evidence or for findings of fact to be made …": Sloutsker v Romanova .
The wrongs for which the claimant is to be compensated
"The Defendant's unlawful acts: disclosure of the Private Information in breach of contract, breach of confidence and amounting to a misuse of the Claimant's private information
11. The Defendant continues to retain the Private Information… the Defendant disclosed all or part of the Private Information on at least the following occasions to third parties (which prior to full disclosure and/or the provision of further information by the Defendant are the best particulars the Claimant can presently provide of this unlawful activity):
11.1 In or around 2012, to Jemma Henley (a.k.a Jemma Lucy);
11.2 At some time between September 2012 and October 2013 to Chantelle Houghton;
11.3 At some time between October 2012 and June 2017 to Kieran Hayler;
11.4 On or around October 2013 to Greg Houghton;
11.5 On 17 October 2017 to a number of individuals at the book launch of the Defendant's novel, "Playing with Fire";
11.6 On 9 January 2018 at the filming of the television show "Celebrity Big Brother's Bit on the Side" to Ellie Barresi, Michael Long and Peter Buwu, along with several other individuals, amounting to approximately 40 people in total.
12. The Claimant also avers that the Defendant disclosed some or all of the Private Information to an unknown number of additional friends whose identities are not yet known to the Claimant at some time between October 2009 and July 2017. Prior to full disclosure and/or the provision of further information by the Defendant, the Claimant will rely in support of this contention upon the following statement made by the Defendant to Heat magazine as reported in the article published on 18 July 2017 on the Daily Mail Online website entitled "'It would disturb everyone to the grave ': Katie Price still has 'disgusting' footage of ex husband Alex Reid tucked away and she 's shown ALL her friends" (which are the best particulars that he can presently provide of the Defendant's unlawful activities in this regard):
"When I've split up with exes, they've gone on a rampage slagging me off. The only way I get retaliation is I do books, but I don't slag them off, I tell the truth.
'Now with Alex [the Claimant] for example, the amount of stories he's done on me, but he forgets what videos and pictures I have of him. All my friends have seen them, but not once have I ever put them out.
'One it would disturb everyone to the grave and number two, they're not flattering, they're disgusting. You look at them and you're disgusted. "
13. The Defendant further breached the Undertakings by referring in public to a description of part of the Private Information as set out in paragraph 2 of the Confidential Schedule."
"… resulted in the disclosure of some or all of the Private Information to:
"17.6.1. An individual who contacted the Claimant through his Twitter account in September 2013 by the name of "Ste Palmer @stepalmer3", who attempted to blackmail the Claimant claiming that he had compromising video recordings of him;
17.6.2 An individual identified as "Ben Bird" who contacted the Claimant through his Facebook account in December 2016, claiming that he had seen sexually explicit video recordings of the Claimant."
The evidence of the claimant
(2) The wrongs complained of
(3) Other conduct of the defendant
(4) Evidence of damage
"I feel suicidal and sick every time Katie makes these statements" about his sex life, observing that "It cannot be right that every time she goes on television or writes an article she is allowed to refer back to the private information that she should never have obtained in the first place and certainly should not be keeping now all these years after our relationship ended. I believe that she is waging this war against me in part to get more publicity for her interviews and other media appearances …"