High Court Denies Norwich Pharmacal Relief in Linda May Green v CT Group Holdings Ltd Due to Lack of Legitimate Purpose

Citation: [2023] EWHC 3168 (Comm)
Judgment on

Introduction

In the case of Linda May Green v CT Group Holdings Limited, the High Court of Justice was tasked with considering an application for Norwich Pharmacal relief. This case offers a detailed exploration of the Norwich Pharmacal principles alongside the consideration of jurisdictional limits where foreign proceedings are involved. The judgment by Charles Hollander KC sitting as a Judge of the High Court provides valuable insights into how courts may approach applications with multi-jurisdictional elements, specifically how the purpose of the application can be pivotal in the court’s decision-making process.

Key Facts

Linda May Green, the claimant, sought Norwich Pharmacal relief to obtain the identity of persons believed to have provided CT Group, the defendant, with allegedly forged documents intending to falsify her financial affairs. These documents arose within the context of family trust restructuring proceedings in the Channel Islands, known as the Channel Island Proceedings.

The defendant, CT Group, had provided documents and a report to Mishcon de Reya on behalf of the claimant’s stepchildren, which purportedly showed the claimant handling large sums of money through various institutions. The authenticity of these documents was disputed by the claimant and refuted by the associated banks. Consequently, Green sought disclosure of the source of these documents through a Norwich Pharmacal order, arguing she was a victim of serious wrongdoing.

CT Group challenged the application on grounds of jurisdiction and appropriateness, including the contention that the application did not have a proper, legitimate purpose post-Omar jurisprudence.

The court elucidated multiple legal principles, including:

  • Norwich Pharmacal Conditions: Traditionally regarded as four conditions: The Arguable Wrong Condition, the Mixed Up In Condition, the Possession Condition, and the Overall Justice Condition. Hollander KC suggests an additional condition, the Proper Purpose test, impacted by the Omar line of cases.

  • Omar and Jurisdiction: Established that where statutory regimes are in place, such as the Crime (International Co-operation) Act 2003 for criminal matters and the Evidence (Proceedings In Other Jurisdictions) Act 1975 for civil matters, the Norwich Pharmacal remedy does not apply. These acts provide exclusive procedures for obtaining evidence in connection with proceedings carried out in foreign jurisdictions.

  • Purpose of Application: The intention behind seeking Norwich Pharmacal relief must be considered, especially in the context of multi-jurisdictional scenarios. If the purpose conflicts with statutory remedies, the jurisdiction for such relief may not be permitted.

The judgment reiterates the exceptional and flexible nature of the Norwich Pharmacal jurisdiction yet underscores the necessity of a legitimate purpose behind the application that aligns with the statutory remedies available.

Outcomes

The application by Linda May Green was dismissed on two key grounds:

  1. A legitimate purpose for the Norwich Pharmacal application was not met since obtaining information for foreign civil proceedings or in connection with foreign criminal investigations was not permissible under the Omar jurisprudence.

  2. The Overall Justice Condition was not satisfied as the court ruled it would not serve a useful or legitimate purpose. Furthermore, the court concluded it would be unlikely to identify the ultimate wrongdoer, given their location and the lack of connection with the United Kingdom.

Conclusion

The case is a potent illustration of central issues courts must grapple with when considering Norwich Pharmacal applications, particularly in dealing with complex, multi-jurisdictional matters. While the court acknowledged the potential wrong committed against the claimant, it adhered to the principles set by precedent and statute, constraining the Norwich Pharmacal relief to applications with legitimate purposes in line with the Omar line of authority. The judgment delivers a cautionary note for applicants seeking such relief, emphasizing the necessitation of a thoroughly articulated and jurisdictionally appropriate purpose.

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