Complaints to Regulatory bodies and Libel

In the case of David Mayer v Francis Hoar (2012) EWHC 1805 (QB) the High Court confirmed the principle that communications between approved regulators and informants in the course of investigations were protected by absolute privilege.

In this case the Defendant was a Barrister and acted for the Claimant in County Court proceedings. The Court dismissed the claim and the Claimant then made a complaint to the Bar Standards Board about the Defendant’s conduct. A major part of the complaint was dismissed by the Board but the Defendant Barrister was asked to comment on allegations that he had ridiculed the Claimant as to his disability and that he had harassed him during the case.

Mr Hoar wrote his reply and stated:

‘The only evidence ever submitted by Mr Mayer in support of his allegation that he based entirely upon his own account’

The Defendant also complained that the Claimant’s allegations against him were malicious and untrue and reserved his own right to take action against the Claimant in libel in the event that he repeated his allegations in ‘a public forum’

Naturally the Claimant was given a copy by the Bar Standards Board of the letter and proceeded to bring a claim himself in libel against Mr Hoar. It emerged later that the statement by the Defendant that the report was written by a GP based entirely upon the Claimant’s account turned out to be untrue and in fact had been written by a Psychiatrist.

The Defendant apologised for this error but stated the claim could not proceed against him because his communication with the Board was protected by absolute privilege. The Defendant relied on the case of Mahon v Rahn (No 2) [2000] 1 WLR 2150.  In that case the Court had held that absolute privilege applied to adjudications between the Financial Services Regulated Regulatory Body and the informant when that information was provided for use in an investigation into a person’s fitness to carry on investment business.  In this case the Court found the circumstances ‘Indistinguishable’

The Board was set up to have responsibility for handling complaints against Barristers. Absolute privilege applied to all adjudications between the Defendant Mr Hall and the Bar Standards Board.

The case was dismissed by the Court as hopeless

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