Last month, the Media and Communications Court heard applications for third party disclosure and specific disclosure of categories of documents in a claim for threatened misuse of private information and blackmail regarding an alleged rape and sexual assault.
The anonymised claimant, JKL, claims that days after what he says was a consensual sexual encounter with the defendant, VBN, he was told she was alleging she had been raped and sexually assaulted by him. But she said she would not go the media and police if he paid her a specific sum of money. VBN denies the claim for threatened misuse of private information and blackmail and alleges she was offered money by an intermediary, R, to drop her complaint. She also counterclaims for damages for rape and sexual assault.
Following standard disclosure and the exchange of witness statements, the defendant applied for specific disclosure from the claimant and third-party intermediaries. Having reserved judgment, the court has now dismissed the application with one caveat.
Various categories of documents sought were rejected on the fairly typical grounds that (i) they were too broad, (ii) they were not obviously relevant to the issues, (iii) there was no evidence they were within the claimant’s control, and/or (iv) it was unclear that the disclosure to date was incomplete. More unusually, the court considered:
- Categories of documents going to R’s credibility and that of three other intermediaries. The court confirmed that it was only in exceptional cases that disclosure of documents going to credibility would be ordered, where this was necessary for justice to be achieved. This was not such a case.
- JKL’s medical records including as to sexually transmitted infections. The court held that this was premature given the pleadings had not been amended to include the specific allegation that VBN had contracted herpes following the sexual encounter.
- Text messages and screenshots from a third party intermediary, SET. The court held that it was unclear from the descriptions of documents in SET’s witness statement as to whether these had already been disclosed. It ordered that a further witness statement be produced more clearly identifying those documents.
This interim judgment confirms the importance of keeping an application for specific disclosure narrow and precise, where there are clear inadequacies in the standard disclosure. Disclosure of documents going to the credibility of witnesses alone will rarely be ordered.
This also serves as a reminder of the Media and Communications Court’s readiness to consider claims including blackmail and revenge elements. The substantive case now proceeds to trial, with a time estimate of five days.
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