CASE SUMMARIES Monday 16 January 1995

The following notes of judgments were prepared by the reporters of the All England Law Reports.

Children

Re F (a minor); CA (Neill, Waite, Peter Gibson LJJ); 16 Nov 1994.

A father's defence solicitor was entitled to interview the sons to discover from them how much, if anything, they had seen of an alleged assault by the father of their mother which was the subject of criminal proceedings against the father.

The boys would clearly want to be spared the ordeal of such an interview, but that had to be weighed against the advantage of a fair trial for the father.

Stephen Bellamy (Wolferstans, Sherwell) for the mother; Sally Porter (Hartnell & Co, Exeter) for the father.

Contempt

Bokhari v Blessed; CA (Sir Thomas Bingham MR, Hobhouse, Morritt LJJ); 7 Nov 1994.

Section 118 of the County Courts Act 1984, which empowered a county court judge to imprison or fine any person who wilfully insulted a witness in court, or in going to or returning from the court, applied not only to proceedings in open court but also toarbitration proceedings before a district judge in chambers.

Aditya Sen (CM Atif & Co) for the appellant; Jonathan McManus (Treasury Solicitor) as amicus curiae.

Costs

McFarlane v EE Caledonia Ltd; QBD (Longmore J); 11 Nov 1994.

The court could order a non-party, in this case Quantum Claims Compensation Specialists Ltd, a company established as a vehicle for handling personal injury claims on a contingency fee basis, to pay the costs of the successful defendant (formerly Occidental Petroleum (Caledonia) Ltd), owners of the Piper Alpha oil rig, in an action for damages for psychiatric injury allegedly caused when the rig was involved in a disastrous explosion and fire, which action had been brought by the plaintiff, a painter who had been working on the rig and who, having no means of financing the action himself, had retained Quantum's services to finance his claim.

The agreement between Quantum, the maintainer of the action, and the plaintiff made no allowance for the payment by Quantum of the costs of a successful adverse party and was, therefore, tainted with illegality as a matter of English law, quite apart from the additional illegality which arose from the champertous nature of the agreement. That furnished a cogent reason why, in the court's discretion, Quantum should be made to pay the successful defendant's costs.

Jonathan Waite (Levinson Gray) for Quantum; Alistair Schaff (Ince & Co) for the defendant.

Discrimination

Smith v Safeway plc; EAT (Pill J, Mrs R Chapman, Mr DAC Lambert); 9 Dec 1994.

For the purposes of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, a male delicatessen assistant was treated less favourably than a female assistant when he was dismissed because the length of his hair (he had a ponytail) contravened the employer's rules for the appearance of male delicatessen staff. Unlike other requirements as to dress and appearance (eg that a woman should wear a skirt: see Schmidt v Austicks Bookshops Ltd [1978] ICR 85), a restriction on hair length had effect not only during working hours but atall times. To make such a distinction was clearly detrimental and fundamentally unfair to men.

Peter Bibby (Free Representation Unit) for the employee; Christopher Jeans (Cartwrights, Bristol) for the employer.

Jury

R v Young (Stephen); CA (Cr Div) (Lord Taylor CJ, Waterhouse, Bell JJ); 17 Nov 1994.

While it was an offence under s 8 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 for anyone to inquire into the deliberations of a jury in considering their verdict in the jury room, that did not prevent the Court of Appeal inquiring what happened at an hotel where the jury had been accommodated overnight.

D Penry-Davey QC, Stephen Holt (Registrar of Criminal Appeals) for the appellant; Michael Lawson QC, Peter W Clarke (CPS) for the Crown; Dorian Lovell-Pank (Treasury Solicitor) as amicus curiae.

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