High Court Grants Summary Judgment in Manchester Arena Bombing Conspiracy Case

Citation: [2024] EWHC 227 (KB)
Judgment on

Introduction

The case of Martin Hibbert & Anor v Richard D Hall before the High Court of Justice in the King’s Bench Division pertains to allegations of harassment, misuse of private information, and data protection breaches. The background involves the tragic Manchester Arena bombing on 22 May 2017, which seriously injured the claimants, Martin and Eve Hibbert. The defendant, Richard Hall, contested the official accounts of the bombing, proposing that it was a staged event. The claimants appealed for summary judgment on several factual issues, which the court analyzed using existing legal principles concerning summary judgments and the weight of evidence.

Key Facts

The key facts of the case include the severe injuries sustained by the claimants in the Manchester Arena bombing and the subsequent publication of a book and other materials by the defendant, alleging a conspiracy surrounding the event. The claimants’ injuries were medically documented and formed part of their claims to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority. The defendant’s narrative contested the claimants’ presence at the event, the nature of their injuries, and the existence of the bombing itself. The claimants sought summary judgment on these key issues, thereby challenging the defendant’s assertions as having no real prospect of success.

Several legal principles were employed in the analysis of the application for summary judgment:

  1. Summary Judgment Standards: Summarized by Lewison J in Easyair Ltd v Opal Telecom Ltd and approved by the Court of Appeal in AC Ward & Sons Ltd v Catlin (Five) Ltd, the principles include assessing if the defendant’s case is “realistic” and not “fanciful,” avoiding a “mini-trial,” and considering all the evidence that could reasonably be expected at trial.

  2. Convictions as Civil Evidence: Under section 11 of the Civil Evidence Act 1968, the fact that a person was convicted of an offence is admissible in civil proceedings to prove they committed that offence, barring any proven contrary evidence.

  3. Evidential Burden and Disclosure: As cited in Korea National Insurance Corp v Allianz Global Corporate & Speciality AG, once credible evidence is produced for a summary judgment, the opposing party has the burden to demonstrate a “real prospect” of success at trial, including stipulating what further evidence they expect to discover.

  4. Preliminary Issue Determination: The case law from Anan Kasei Co v Neo Chemicals and Vardy v Rooney distinguished between severable parts of claims and mere components of claims or issues. Determining a preliminary issue is appropriate only if it has significant consequences for the conduct of the case.

The court addressed each of the principles, underscoring the improbability of the defendant’s counterarguments, which were deemed speculative at best. It also acknowledged the gravity of the claimants’ suffering and the burden of having to endure a full trial predicated on unfounded conspiracy theories.

Outcomes

Master Davison provided judgment in favor of the claimants, awarding summary judgment on the disputed issues:

  1. The acceptance of conviction evidence regarding the bomber’s brother, Hashem Abedi, confirmed the occurrence of the Manchester bombing.

  2. Ample credible evidence demonstrated that the claimants were present and injured at the event, satisfying the legal burden required for summary judgment.

  3. The defendant’s contrarian theory and submissions fell short of casting doubt on the claimants’ evidence and have failed to satisfy the evidential burden required to avoid summary judgment.

  4. The defendant’s applications for third-party disclosure seeking further evidence were dismissed.

  5. The case was listed for further hearing to determine consequential orders, costs, and future conduct directions.

Conclusion

The High Court’s decision illustrates the careful application of legal principles governing summary judgments in civil cases. It reflects the judiciary’s commitment to procedural economy and the avoidance of unnecessary trials when the evidence overwhelmingly supports one party’s account. The court was tasked with balancing the need for a fair hearing against the requirement for claims to have a realistic prospect of success. In dismissing ill-conceived notions that detract from the gravity of the incident, Master Davison’s judgment reasserts the primacy of credible evidence and legal standards in upholding justice for those personally affected by the tragedy of the Manchester Arena bombing.

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