Directions issued by DJ Hennessy at hearing in libel and negligence cases brought against Wirral Council
Previous coverage of hearings in this matter held at Birkenhead County Court can be read at the following links:
Today was a hearing in the two linked cases (E14YJ013 & E24YJ652) brought by Mrs Chalmers against Wirral Borough Council at Birkenhead County Court.
The hearing was listed for 11.30 am, but as Mrs Chalmers wasn’t present it didn’t start until around 11.50 am.
Attending today for the Defendant Wirral Council was Mr Bayatti (a solicitor working for Wirral Council) and one other Wirral Council employee who although present for the hearing did not speak during it.
The hearing was held before District Judge Hennessy in Judges’ Chambers on the 4th floor.
It started with Mr Bayatti stating that he was there on behalf of Wirral Council.
Judge Hennessy pointed out that Mrs Chalmers wasn’t there. She said that she had read Civil Procedure Rule 39.2 that dealt with when a hearing would not be held in public.
As Rule 39.2(2) states, “In deciding whether to hold a hearing in private, the court must consider any duty to protect or have regard to a right to freedom of expression which may be affected.” she referred to this blog.
She ruled that the hearing would not be in private but be in public, but pointed out that Mrs Chalmers wasn’t present. She then asked Mr Bayatti if there was anything he thought he wanted to raise or whether it seemed fine?
Mr Bayatti did not respond and Judge Hennessy said that the hearing was listed for directions.
Judge Hennessy referred to Birkenhead County Court having received Wirral Council’s Defence in the defamation case, but that there would need to be substantive directions in the other case.
Wirral Council’s Defence raised a defence but also a limitation issue which needed to be resolved. Therefore she would make some sort of “unless” order for Mrs Chalmers to reply to the Defence particularly as regard to the limitation part. If Mrs Chalmers replied there would be a limitation hearing.
Mr Bayatti responded to her points, the Judge responded and then Mr Bayatti suggested that the hearing could be adjourned for a date after the “unless” deadline, then Wirral Council could reinstate the need for directions then or it would be listed for a limitation hearing with any directions dealt with after that.
The Judge said that to Mrs Chalmers’s credit that she was quite prompt in sending replies to the Court, so it was unusual that it wasn’t there.
Mr. Bayatti referred to the Notice of Hearing which the Judge confirmed went out on the 1st April.
The Judge then dictated a directions order. Unfortunately she spoke rather quietly so I missed some words (indicated with …) but she dealt with directions in the defamation case first.
She said, “Upon the Claimant not attending and on hearing the solicitor for the Defendant:
1) The time for the Claimant to file a notice of a reply to the Defence and in particular to set out why she says that her claim … prevented from being brought by virtue of the Limitation Act 1980 as set out in paragraph 10 … Defendant’s Defence is extended to 4pm on the 11th June. In default of a …. the Claimant’s claim shall stand struck out.
2) On filing of a reply in accordance with paragraph 1, the matter shall be referred to Judge Hennessy for directions to begin for the hearing of the limitation issue.
Judge Hennessy then said there would be a paragraph about costs in the case for that order.
In the other case her order was simply:
On the Claimant not attending and on hearing the solicitor for the Defendant on the directions, the hearing in this matter be adjourned pending compliance with the order in the case. The matter will be referred to Judge Hennessy on 12th June for further directions to be given on paper.
Judge Hennessy made further comments, but asked Wirral Council if there was anything else for today’s hearing?
Wirral Council answered that they didn’t think so.
Judge Hennessy said that that set out the next steps and that she couldn’t think of anything outstanding or needed?
Wirral Council said that they wanted to file a statement of service for the service of the amended Defence, might this be helpful?
Judge Hennessy replied to this, “Yes.” and said this would be included in the order in a new paragraph 3 (with costs now becoming paragraph 4). She said the paragraph would be that the Defendant is to file a Certificate of Service of the amended Defence by the 28th May.
She asked if Wirral Council had anything else? Wirral Council said no thanks and said that she had been “very helpful”.
The hearing finished.
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