CASE SUMMARIES : 10 July 1995

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

Bankruptcy

Re a debtor (no 87 of 1993); ChD (Rimer J); 30 June 1995

The court's decision on an application under section 262 of the Insolvency Act 1986 seeking to challenge a decision of a creditors' meeting relating to a voluntary arrangement was a final one and not an interlocutory one. It followed that affidavit evidence based on information or belief was inadmissible on the application.

Philip Bartle (Philip Jackson & Co, Newcastle upon Tyne) for the first respondent; Andrew Rigney (Manches & Co) for the second respondent; Simon Barker (Stockdale & Reid, North Shields) for the applicants.

Computer evidence

Ashton v DPP; QBD(DC)(Balcombe LJ, Buxton J); 23 June 1995

Magistrates were correct in admitting in evidence a computer print-out from a Lion Intoximeter which bore the words "trace acetone", having decided there were no grounds for believing that the statement was inaccurate by reason of improper use of the computer. The words "improper use of the computer" in s 69 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 meant that the use of the computer had to amount to impropriety, for example using the computer in such a way as to provide an unfair result so as to produce evidence that was weighted against the defendant. Here the computer print-out could not constitute "improper use" as the print-out contained evidence which was to the advantage of the defendant as it showed the machine had reduced the figure for the alcohol content in the defendant's blood to allow for the acetone.

Andrew Alty (Green D'Sa & Sons, Leicester) for the defendant; Paul Mann (CPS) for the prosecutor.

Libel

Cumming v Scottish Daily Record and Sunday Mail Ltd and ors; QBD (Drake J); 30 March 1995

The English High Court had jurisdiction to stay a libel action brought in England by a Scottish plaintiff against Scottish defendants on the ground that the case should more properly be tried in Scotland. In so holding his Lordship departed from his own previous decision in Foxen v Scotsman Publication Ltd (the Independent, 28 March 1994) that to preserve the doctrine of forum non conveniens as between different jurisdiction within a single contracting state was contrary to the spirit of the European Convention on Jurisdiction and Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters 1968 which applied in the UK by virtue of the Civil Jurisdiction and Judgments Act 1982. His Lordship was now persuaded that that was not the effect of the 1982 Act, and that the English court was free to apply the doctrine of forum non conveniens as between two jurisdictions within the UK.

Manuel Barca (Morrison Skirrow) for the defendants; HNA Starte (Biddle & Co) for the plaintiff.

Planning

Bolton MDC v Secretary of State for the Environment and others; HL (Lord Goff of Chieveley, Lord Mustill, Lord Slynn of Hadley, Lord Lloyd of Berwick and Lord Steyn); 24 May 1995; 6 July 1995

The Secretary of State's decision letter on planning appeals should state his reasons in sufficient detail to enable the reader to know what conclusions had been reached on the principal important controversial issues. If he stated his conclusions on vital issues and although his reasons might not be very full and were in certain respects badly expressed, they were adequate.

As to the question of costs where there had been multiple representation in planning appeals, the fundamental rule with costs was there were no rules. Costs were always in the discretion of the court and a practice must never be allowed to harden into a rule. The Secretary of State, when successful in defending his decision would normally be entitled to the whole of his costs. He should not be required to share his award of costs. The developer would not normally be entitled to his costs unless he could show that there was likely to be a separate issue not covered by counsel for the Secretary of State on which he was entitled to be heard or he had an interest which required separate representation. The mere fact he was a developer would not of itself justify a second set of costs. A second set of costs was more likely to be awarded at first instance than in the Court of Appeal or House of Lords, by which time the issues should have crystallised. An award of a third set of costs would rarely be justified.

In the present case the Secretary of State was entitled to the whole of his costs. The developers, who were not concerned with the Secretary of State's wider policy towards out-of-town shopping centres, but had a sufficiently independent interest to protect where the scale of the development and the importance of the outcome were both of exceptional size and weight, were entitled to their costs.

Duncan Ousley QC and Christopher Katkowski (Treasury Solicitor) for the Secretary of State; Brian Ash QC and Paul Stinchcombe (Stephenson Harwood) for the developers, Manchester Ship Canal Co; Susan Hamilton QC and Sebastian Head (Nabarro Nathanson) for Trafford Park Development Corpn; Robin Purchas QC and Meyric Lewis (Sharpe Pritchard) for a consortium of councils.

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