Court Adjourns Trial in Wilson v Frost Case Due to Mental Health Concerns: Balancing Justice and Defendant's Rights

Citation: [2024] EWHC 573 (Ch)
Judgment on


In the case of Mark Wilson & Anor (joint liquidators of Westcountrytruffles Limited) v Brian Bryan Frost & Anor [2024] EWHC 573 (Ch), the key issues revolve around an application for an adjournment of a trial based on a defendant’s mental health condition, and the applicability of statutory limitations on bringing claims against directors. The court must strike a balance between ensuring the fair administration of justice and the defendant’s ability to participate in the trial process. By exploring the legal principles invoked, the outcome of the application for adjournment, and the implications thereto, we gain insight into the application of procedural rules and the discretion granted to the judiciary.

Key Facts

The core issues center on the First Respondent’s request for an adjournment or stay of proceedings due to mental health concerns which purportedly hinder engagement in the trial process. The First Respondent’s mental health status was substantiated by a report from a Consultant Psychiatrist, Dr. Akenzua. The trial concerns claims by the Liquidators against directors of a dissolved company for various financial wrongdoings, including director loan account discrepancies and unlawful dividends.

The proceedings have a history of extensions primarily due to the solicitors’ capacity issues, with the First Respondent’s mental health being a more recent development. Multiple steps were taken by different solicitors’ firms, leading to the application being heard on the scheduled day of the trial.

The court’s decision draws on several key legal principles and case law precedent, including:

  • The general discretion of the court in case-management decisions, including adjournments, as per CPR 1.1.
  • Guidelines for evidence supporting adjournments on medical grounds as set out in Levy v Ellis-Carr [2012] EWHC 63 (Ch). This includes the requirement for medical evidence to identify the attendant, his familiarity with the party’s condition, details about the medical condition, a reasoned prognosis, and assurance of an independent opinion.
  • The various factors that would influence the decision to adjourn, as outlined in cases such as FCA v Avacade [2020] EWHC 26 (Ch) and Bilta (UK) Ltd v Tradition Financial Services Ltd [2021] EWCA Civ 221.
  • The relevance of the merits of the defence to the adjournment decision, following Fox v Graham (The Times, 3 August 2001) and Bilta (UK) Ltd, stating the importance of considering whether there will be a fair trial and the impact a witness’s non-attendance will have on the case.


The trial was adjourned, taking into account the report of Dr. Akenzua, which detailed the First Respondent’s mental health condition and prognosis. The court did not find it appropriate to grant a stay. New directions for the trial were laid out, including timelines for re-listing and the submission of witness evidence.

Although the Liquidators questioned the adequacy of Dr. Akenzua’s report and suggested potential manipulation by the First Respondent, Chief ICC Judge Briggs found the report satisfactory and was not convinced by the arguments to refute it.

Judge Briggs also considered the history of the case, including the nature of previous extensions, utilizing discretion in determining the relevance of the First Respondent’s mental health in relation to his capacity to engage with the legal proceedings.


The decision to adjourn the trial in the case of Mark Wilson & Anor v Brian Bryan Frost & Anor serves as a testament to the court’s commitment to ensuring that justice is not only done but seen to be done. By carefully assessing medical evidence and the overall procedural conduct of the case, the court illustrates the importance of a flexible and fair approach to trial management in the face of health-related challenges faced by a defendant. The court effectively balanced the need for a timely resolution of legal disputes with the rights of an individual to a fair opportunity to participate in the proceedings, serving as notable guidance for the application of these principles in future cases.