Taylor v Director of the Serious Fraud Office

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
Judgment Date22 July 1997
Date22 July 1997
CourtCourt of Appeal (Civil Division)

Court of Appeal

Before Lord Justice Kennedy, Lord Justice Millett and Sir Brian Neill

Taylor and Another
Serious Fraud Office and Others

Documents - production in context of criminal investigation - immunity from suit

Limit to use of documents created in criminal investigations

Although material supplied to a defendant as part of the prosecution case was not subject to any restriction on its subsequent use, public policy required that documents coming into existence and discussions taking place in the context of an investigation of a suspected crime be immune from suit.

Where the needs of justice required invasion of privacy or confidentiality, the court should be prepared to act to ensure that documents created or collected during the course of criminal inquiries be used only for the purposes of that inquiry and any prosecution arising from them.

There were two exceptional circumstances: (i) Where the document was used in the criminal court in such a way that its contents became public knowledge and (ii) Where the court was persuaded that the overall interests of justice required the document to be available for use in other proceedings.

Consequently, it was an abuse of process for a person to bring a defamation suit on the basis of a letter and file note of a discussion written in the course of an investigation for fraud and disclosed to him by a defendant in criminal proceedings although not used in the proceedings.

The Court of Appeal so stated in a reserved judgment when dismissing an appeal by Thomas Taylor and Monarch Assurance plc against a decision of Sir Michael Davies, sitting as a judge of the Queen's Bench Division on June 27, 1996, ordering that actions for defamation be struck out as against the Serious Fraud Office, Katherine McKenzie, the Law Society and Neil Rogerson.

In 1994 the SFO investigated the activities of three men, one of whom died before trial, suspected of serious fraud. On May 4, Ms McKenzie, a lawyer with the SFO, sought by letter the assistance of the Attorney-General of the Isle of Man to interview Mr Taylor, a solicitor, who practised there and in England and who had invested money for clients with two of the men.

On May 17, during the investigations she talked to Neil Rogerson, an employee of the Law Society, about the compensation fund and its application to the inquiry. A note was taken of the visit.

The criminal proceedings against the two surviving men came on in the crown court and on October 24, 1994 the SFO disclosed to the defendants' solicitors in the criminal case unused material including the letter and file note.

In May 1995 Mr Taylor was asked by one defendant's counsel to assist and he was shown documents including the letter and file note in order to prepare for interview. He was concerned that he was portrayed in them as a conspirator.

He subsequently issued writs for defamation against the SFO, Ms McKenzie, the Law Society and Neil Rogerson.

Mr Leolin Price, QC and Mr Julian Knowles for...

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1 books & journal articles
  • Of Kings and Officers — The Judicial Development of Public Law
    • United Kingdom
    • Sage Federal Law Review No. 33-2, June 2005
    • 1 Junio 2005
    ...185 CLR 307. 301 Jamieson v Black (1993) 177 CLR 574; Hillman v Black (1996) 67 SASR 490, 503–5, 511–12; Taylor v Serious Fraud Office [1997] 4 All ER 887, 900–1; Stanton v Callaghan [1998] 4 All ER 961, 971–84, 985–91; Mahon v Rahn (No 2) [2000] 4 All ER 41, 68; Darker v Chief Constable of......

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