High Court weighs evidence but denies permission for committal in Pilgrim Holding SARL & Anor v Timothy Davies for false witness statements.

Citation: [2023] EWHC 2797 (Comm)
Judgment on


In the High Court case of Pilgrim Holding SARL & Another v Timothy Davies, Mr Justice Foxton deliberates on an application for permission to pursue committal proceedings for contempt of court. The Respondent, Mr Davies, is alleged to have made multiple false statements in witness statements verified by statements of truth during commercial court proceedings. The judgment focuses on the interpretation of the applicable Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) and established case law to determine whether permission for committal proceedings should be granted.

Key Facts

The Defendants (“the Applicants”) seek permission under CPR 81.3(5)(b) to pursue committal proceedings against Mr Davies, who provided two witness statements thought to contain knowingly false information in response to a security for costs application. Despite further witness statements attempting to correct earlier ones, the Judge had already concluded that Mr Davies had access to funds sufficient to provide security, which was not done.

The analysis of the application revolves around several key legal principles:

  1. False witness statements: As per CPR 32.14, proceedings for contempt can be initiated against someone who makes a knowingly false statement in a document verified by a statement of truth. The individual should lack an honest belief in its truth.

  2. Public Interest: As derived from case law, primarily Barnes v Seabrook and KJM Superbikes Limited v Hinton, the proceedings should serve the public interest. Factors affecting this determination include the strength of evidence showing the falsehood and knowledge thereof, the significance of the false statement, and the potential impact on the legal profession and due administration of justice.

  3. Requirement of a strong prima facie case: The court should only give permission if there is a strong prima facie case that the statements in question were knowingly false. It implies evidence sufficient to satisfy the criminal standard of proof, as indicated by Norman v Adler.

  4. Overriding Objective: As highlighted by Stobart v Elliott, the proposed committal proceedings should align with the overriding objective contained within the CPR, which includes ensuring that the case is dealt with justly and efficiently.


Mr Justice Foxton found a strong prima facie case that Mr Davies made multiple statements knowing they were untrue, potentially with the intention to interfere with justice. However, the cumulative considerations led to the refusal of permission:

  1. Corrections made: Some incorrect statements were subsequently corrected, thus mitigating the contention of due administration of justice being interfered with.

  2. Lack of prejudice beyond costs: The misstatements did not appear to cause prejudice beyond additional incurred costs. The Applicants could seek recourse through a separate costs order under s.51 of the Senior Courts Act 1981.

  3. Court Resources: Granting permission would consume significant court resources, considering the oversubscribed court dockets, while the substantive proceedings had already concluded.

  4. Public Interest Consideration: In light of the proceedings’ history and the ultimate lack of stifling of TB Property’s claim, the application was deemed not to serve the public interest.


In Pilgrim Holding SARL & Anor v Timothy Davies, Mr Justice Foxton’s judgment underscores a delicate balance between holding individuals accountable for their statements under oath and the pragmatic considerations of court resources, the conduct of proceedings, and the overriding objective. While the prima facie evidence of untruthful statements was compelling, the factors against a committal proceeding – including procedural history, subsequent remediation, and public interest considerations – led to the refusal of permission. This case domestically illustrates the cautious approach the UK courts adopt towards committal proceedings, maintaining their integrity without undue strain on judicial resources.