Hussein v William Hill Group

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtQueen's Bench Division
JudgeMrs Justice Hallett
Judgment Date18 February 2004
Neutral Citation[2004] EWHC 208 (QB)
Docket NumberCase No: HQ 02X00501
Date18 February 2004

[2004] EWHC 208 (QB)

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE

QUEENS BENCH DIVISION

Royal Courts of Justice

Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

Before:

The Honourable Mrs Justice Hallett DBE

Case No: HQ 02X00501

Between
Sayed Hussein
Claimant
and
William Hill Group
Defendants

Sayed Hussein represented himself

Catherine Foster (instructed by Berrymans Lace Mawer Solicitors) for the defendants

Approved Judgment

I direct that pursuant to CPR PD 39A para 6.1 no official shorthand note shall be taken of this Judgment and that copies of this version as handed down may be treated as authentic.

Mrs Justice Hallett Mrs Justice Hallett
1

The claimant, a litigant in person, is 69 years old, a former army officer and a qualified accountant. He suffers from diabetes and heart problems. On 9th September 2001 the claimant was assaulted by Stephen Whyms an employee of the defendant firm of bookmakers. He claims damages for personal injury, loss of earnings, loss of a watch and slander. His claim was initially limited to £57500.00, but at the beginning of the trial, he applied for permission to amend his particulars of claim as he put it to "remove the limit on the damages claimed", and to claim "damages for aggravated assault", the aggravation being the way in which this litigation has been allegedly conducted by the defendants. I declined to rule on the application until I could understand the reasons for it. In the event it became unnecessary to do so.

2

The assault occurred at the Locarno branch of William Hill in Streatham. Mr Whyms, who is of Afro-Caribbean origin, was employed there as a deputy manager cashier. According to the claimant this was not the first time Mr Whyms had been involved in a violent incident. He is no longer employed by the defendants and did not give evidence before me.

3

There have been two disagreements involving staff at this particular branch of William Hill and Mr Hussein. The first was about non—payment of what Mr Hussein claimed was a winning betting slip. In questioning the defendants' witnesses Mr Hussein put in clear terms that minutes before the assault he and Mr Whyms had argued over the payment of this bet. In his closing submissions to me Mr Hussein said this argument occurred the previous day and did not involve Mr Whyms. In any event, all are agreed that on the afternoon of 9 th September 2001 there was an argument between Mr Whyms and the claimant which led to Mr Whyms' hitting Mr Hussein with a cardboard tube. Part of what happened has been captured on CCTV footage. Unfortunately, the recording does not provide any evidence as to what was said and does not cover the assault itself. Mr Hussein has taken great exception to the recording shown to me. He claims it was deliberately withheld by the defendants for many months and then produced in a form which is inaccurate. Mr Samuels, a senior employee of William Hill in charge of security and given the task of investigating this matter, although no video engineer himself, was responsible for recording the video in "real time" rather than in its original jerky 24 hour format. Mr Hussein argues that I should not, therefore, rely upon the apparent timings shown by the video produced by Mr Samuels. I have not done so.

4

Mr Hussein claimed that the incident began when he gave Mr Whyms a £50 note for a £10 bet but received no change. Ms Foster, on behalf of the defendants, argued that the video appears to show Mr Whyms refusing to take a bank note rather than accepting one. I am inclined to agree with her. This is consistent with the defendant's case namely that Mr Whyms was refusing to change a £5 note for cash for the fruit machines. Whatever the cause of the dispute, it is clear from the claimant's body language on the video recording that he became very heated. He did not remain, as he claims and his witness Mrs Ma claims, calm and polite.

5

Mr Hussein admitted that when he was arguing with Mr Whyms at the desk he told Mr Whyms "I do not need you making monkey faces at me. I need my change". He denied saying "fucking monkey faces" as recorded by Mr Samuels in an interview with Mr Hussein on 12 th September 2001. Mr Hussein told me that Mr Whyms kept pulling faces as he tried to get his point across. He denied getting angry and he denied calling Mr Whyms "a fucking monkey" which he conceded would have been a racist remark. I should say that given the claimant accepted the use of the term "monkey" would have been racist, if directed at Mr Whyms, the distinction between calling Mr Whyms "a monkey" and saying he was pulling "monkey faces" is to my mind a fine one. Mr Hussein assured me he would not make a racist comment having been involved in promoting good race relations for many years. He showed me photographs to prove such involvement. Whatever he said undoubtedly upset Mr Whyms and he lost his self control.

6

The tape showed Mr Hussein leaving his desk and moving out of camera range. He was out of sight for the duration of the assault. On any view, the assault was over in less than two minutes. After the assault Mr Hussein reappeared on camera and left the shop. He paced up and down outside. At one stage he gesticulated rudely to Mr Whyms from the door to the shop. There is a dispute as to how long he waited outside the shop. For whatever time he remained outside the shop, I have to say he showed no signs of being shocked, dazed and dizzy as he later told a Consultant Psychiatrist. He looked angry. He still had perched on the back of his head his sunglasses which did not seem to have been dislodged during the assault.

7

As to what happened off camera, it is not disputed that Mr Whyms picked up a cardboard tube containing posters, followed Mr Hussein to the television screen area, stood on a chair and hit Mr Hussein with the tube. The extent of the assault and its effects are, however, very much in dispute. Ms Foster has argued on behalf of the defendants that the claimant is motivated by a grudge against the defendants and is determined to extract a grossly inflated award of damages from them. He has somehow persuaded his witnesses to give evidence confirming his account. The claimant argued that he was assaulted and humiliated by Mr Whyms, that the defendants have behaved very badly in defending his genuine claim, that he has lost considerable earnings as a result of his injuries and he is entitled to a very substantial sum of damages.

8

With that background, I turn to the evidence of the assault. Mr Hussein has given varying accounts. For most of the trial, he claimed to have seen his General Practitioner (GP) Dr Shah on the day of the assault. The only record of that visit and what he is supposed to have said to Dr Shah is a single entry on a GP continuation sheet. It makes no reference to his being hit on the head. Reference is made to "no fracture and no dislocation", an odd reference Ms Foster argued if the GP knew of a head injury. Mr Hussein also spoke to the press and did not mention to them being hit on the head. He told the reporter he had been hit twice. The day after the event, in a letter to the defendants, the claimant said that Mr Whyms had hit him twice with a stick. He does not mention being hit on the head. On the 12 th September Mr Hussein told Mr Samuels that he had been hit on the head, side of the face and on the arms when he put them up to protect himself. He showed Mr Samuels two photographs showing a red mark just on or above Mr Hussein's cheek. At the time of the interview, however, Mr Samuels and his colleague could see no red mark just some "white discolouring-could have been a scratch mark—appeared to be flaky skin". When asked to produce the photographs, Mr Hussein said that he had given them to the police and they had not been returned. No copies have been produced. Mr Hussein told the police that he had been hit twice once on the head and once on the side of the face. He made no mention of his injuries save to say he attended hospital.

9

Asked about his various accounts nearer the time of the assault, Mr Hussein said that they represented his memory of events at that time. He claimed that his memory had improved with the passage of time. Mr Hussein insisted that he had been struck 3 times with a cardboard tube. The cardboard tube was 32" long and weighed 713 grams including 4 posters. Mr Hussein spent a great deal of time during the hearing complaining that in the pleaded defence the defendants referred to a "hollow" tube and in correspondence appeared to be claiming that the tube weighed only 47 grams. He also felt the defendants had misled Dr Fry in their instructions to him as to the nature of the weapon used. This caused him considerable concern. Mr Samuels, their employee, knew or should have known from 12 th September 2001 the correct size and approximate weight of the tube. He argued that this attitude indicates on the part of the defendants a deliberate attempt to mislead him and the court. It is unfortunate that there was ever any dispute as to the size and weight of the weapon used. It remained in the defendants' custody throughout. I am not, however, persuaded that I should infer anything sinister from what I suspect was a genuine mistake and breakdown in communications. In any event the weight and size of the weapon is now agreed and the tube has been produced before me.

10

On 4 th March 2003 the claimant told Dr Fry a Consultant Psychiatrist instructed on behalf of the defendants that he had suffered 2 blows, one landing in the centre of his head coming down from above and one to the left cheek which Mr Hussein attempted to block with his left (sic) arm.

11

In evidence before me, the claimant's first account was that he had been hit twice to the head and once to the side of the face. His sunglasses, which were perched on the back of his head, were not affected....

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3 cases
  • Meadow v General Medical Council
    • United Kingdom
    • Queen's Bench Division (Administrative Court)
    • 17 February 2006
    ...disciplinary action. I note that such referrals have been made, although I do not think the immunity point has been argued: see Hussein v William Hill Group [2004] EWHC 208 (Q.B.) per Hallett J and Pearce v Ove Arup (Case No HC 1996 06040 (2 November 2001) per Jacob J. In Paragraph 62 of th......
  • Meadow v General Medical Council
    • United Kingdom
    • Court of Appeal (Civil Division)
    • 26 October 2006
    ...disciplinary action. I note that such referrals have been made, although I do not think the immunity point has been argued: see Hussein v William Hill Group [2004] EWHC 208 (QB), per Hallett J and Pearce v Ove Arup (unreported) 2 November 2001, per Jacob J. In that case, Jacob J said, at p......
  • Mr Sayed Hussein v William Hill
    • United Kingdom
    • Queen's Bench Division
    • 20 January 2006
    ...(as she then was) on 26 th and 27 th January and 3 rd February 2004. She gave judgment on 18 th February 2004 the neutral citation is [2004] EWHC 208(QB). 7 Hallett J concluded her judgment as follows: "46 I have no doubt that Mr Hussein when he realised he had a claim against the defendant......

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