Yvonne Ameyaw v Christina McGoldrick

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
JudgeMr Justice Warby
Judgment Date12 November 2020
Neutral Citation[2020] EWHC 3035 (QB)
Date12 November 2020
Docket NumberCase No: QB-2020-000089
CourtQueen's Bench Division

[2020] EWHC 3035 (QB)

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE

QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION

MEDIA AND COMMUNICATIONS LIST

Royal Courts of Justice

Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

Before:

THE HON. Mr Justice Warby

Case No: QB-2020-000089

Between:
Yvonne Ameyaw
Claimant
and
(1) Christina McGoldrick
(2) Louise Coyne
(3) Pricewaterhousecoopers Services Limited
Defendants

The Claimant did not appear and was not represented

Rupert Paines (instructed by Fladgate LLP) for the Defendants

Hearing date: 5 November 2020

Approved Judgment

I direct that copies of this version of the judgment as handed down may be treated as authentic.

Mr Justice Warby Mr Justice Warby
1

On 5 November 2020, I declined to adjourn the hearing of two applications in this action and decided to proceed in the absence of the claimant, for reasons to be given later. I considered and dismissed the claimant's application. I read and heard argument on the defendants' application, and reserved judgment. I now give reasons for the decisions made on the day of the hearing and give judgment on the issues which I reserved.

The action

2

Yvonne Ameyaw sues three defendants in respect of their actions, or alleged actions, towards her over the period from about 31 January 2017 until the commencement of these proceedings on 9 January 2020. The defendants are Christine McGoldrick, Louise Coyne, and PricewaterhouseCoopers Services Limited (“PwC”).

3

Ms Ameyaw is a chartered management accountant who was employed by PwC in its Financial Services Risk & Regulation Service Line from April 2014 to October 2017, when her employment was terminated. In her Particulars of Claim she identifies herself as a Black African woman. In 2015 and 2016, Ms Ameyaw brought proceedings against PwC in the Employment Tribunal (“ET”) alleging direct race and/or sex discrimination (“Claims 1–3”). Ms Ameyaw brought further proceedings in May 2017, amended in 2018 following the termination of her employment (“Claim 4”). Claim 4 included additional claims for harassment, victimisation, ‘whistleblowing’ detriment, and unfair dismissal.

4

Claims 1–3 were dismissed by the ET (Judge Baron and members) on 14 March 2018, and, on 11 December 2019, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (“EAT”) dismissed an appeal. Claim 4 was dismissed by the ET (Judge Grewal and members) on 16 April 2019. Limited permission has been granted for an appeal to the EAT, which is pending at the time of writing.

5

Ms McGoldrick and Ms Coyne are solicitors, employed in-house, who were instructed by PwC to represent the company in the ET proceedings, and in the appellate proceedings which Ms Ameyaw has brought. Ms Coyne acted for PwC until November 2018. Ms McGoldrick then took over responsibility for the conduct of PwC's case. Ms Ameyaw describes the two individual defendants as “believed to be White British and White American women respectively”. Ms Coyne says she is Canadian, but there is no other dispute about ethnicity.

6

Ms Ameyaw claims damages for what she describes as a course of conduct in which the defendants are alleged to have committed the torts of libel, malicious falsehood, harassment, negligence, breach of confidence, and breach of her privacy and data protection rights. She also claims exemplary damages for “perverting the course of justice and unreasonable or oppressive conduct”. In paragraph 19 bis of her Particulars of Claim 1 she asserts that

“Collectively, by their deliberate and calculated acts and omissions, the Defendants have caused the Claimant great distress and embarrassment and tarnished her personal and professional reputation to a very large extent indeed. In particular, the Defendants conduct of the ET proceedings, have severely prejudiced the Claimant's employment claims and led to unfair criticism of the Claimant in public judgments issued on 17 March 2017 and 12 April 2019 (both now subjects of appeals before the Employment Appeal Tribunal)”.

7

There is also a claim for injunctions to restrain the publication of further libels or malicious falsehoods. Paragraph 27 of the Particulars of Claim addresses the question of limitation. It asserts that the events complained of amount to a continuing course of conduct but contains an application, should any of the matters be deemed out of time, for the Court to extend time “on the basis that it is just and equitable to do so”.

8

A Defence on behalf of all defendants was filed on 10 February 2020. Paragraph 3 contains this overall response to the claim:

“By reason of the matters particularised … below, the Claimant's claims are wholly without merit and liable to be struck out. In particular, the Claimant's claims (i) comprise re-litigation of and/or a collateral attack upon matters that have been the subject of numerous judgments of the Employment Tribunal and appeals therefrom; (ii) challenge publications that are protected by absolute or qualified privilege, (iii) cannot show any serious harm to the Claimant's reputation (or risk thereof); and (iv) are in large part time-barred.”

9

Other matters are raised by way of defence, some of which I shall have to touch upon, but it has not been necessary for me to examine or consider every aspect of the Defence for the purpose of deciding the two applications that are now before me.

The applications

10

The first of those applications was made by the defendants, by a notice dated 30 March 2020, seeking:-

[1] An order determining preliminary issues between the parties on (i) the meaning of certain statements of which the claimant complains; (ii) whether those

statements are defamatory of the claimant either at common law or under s. 1 Defamation Act 2013; and (iii) whether the statements complained of are statements of fact or opinion.

[2] An order striking out the Claimant's claim pursuant to CPR 3.4(2)(a) and/or (b).

[3] An order for summary judgment under CPR Part 24 and/or s. 8 Defamation Act 1996 against the Claimant on the whole of her claim, because she has no real prospect of succeeding on the claim or issue and there is no other compelling reason why the claim or issue should be disposed of at a trial.”

(I have added the bold paragraph numbering).

11

These applications are supported by a witness statement of Ben Drew, of the defendants' solicitors, dated 20 March 2020.

12

The defendants' application was placed in the warned list for hearing on 1 July 2020. By Order of 26 June 2020, I declined to act on a letter, dated 17 June 2020 from the claimant, seeking to vacate that hearing.

13

On 30 June 2020, the claimant filed the second application which is before me today. It is an application for injunctions, filed as a matter of urgency, with a view to hearing on 1 July 2020. The application notice seeks orders that:-

[1] The defendant Louise Coyne must [be] prohibited from use of confidential medical information belonging to the Applicant, namely medical reports dated 10 May 2017 and 5 June 2018, and repeated in the Judgment of the Employment Tribunal promulgated on 12 April 2019. To be effective immediately until the end of the full appeal hearing of case number UKEAT/0291/19/LA & UKEAT/0298/19/LA before the Employment Appeal Tribunal; or until a time otherwise determined by the court [and] return the above named-documents to the Application no later than 9am on 1 July 2020

[2] The defendant[s] Christina McGoldrick and PricewaterhouseCoopers Services Limited be forbidden (whether by himself or by encouraging or permitting any other person) … from use of confidential information belonging to the Applicant namely medical reports dated 10 May 2017 and 5 June 2018 … [and] return the above-named documents to the Applicant no later than 9am on 1 July 2020.”

(Again, the bold numbering is mine).

14

The claimant's application is supported by a witness statement, dated 30 June 2020. In circumstances I shall mention, neither application was determined on 1 July 2020. On 21 September 2020, Mr Drew made a second witness statement, in response to this application.

Procedural history

15

There is a complex procedural history to this litigation. Much of it is described in a series of judgments of Steyn J, DBE. I have familiarised myself with the background, but not all of it has any bearing on the issues I have to decide now. I shall set out those parts which have a bearing on the substantive applications and some additional matters which are relevant to the first issue for decision, namely whether this hearing should proceed or be adjourned.

16

It is relevant to mention first the matter of representation. Throughout these proceedings, the defendants have been professionally represented by solicitors and Counsel. Ms Ameyaw has represented herself. From time to time, she has had a McKenzie Friend to assist her, by the name of Leonard Ogilvy. Latterly, at least, she has had support from her mother, Mrs Doris Mensah. I have taken these features of the case into account in all case management or discretionary decisions.

17

Secondly, there are some aspects of the procedural history since the claimant's application notice was filed on 30 June 2020 that need to be mentioned:-

(1) On 1 July 2020, Steyn J began hearing the applications that are now before me. The hearing was adjourned, after the claimant collapsed in court.

(2) On 2 July 2020, Dr Ruth Harrison of the claimant's GP practice wrote a letter “To Whom it May Concern”. She reported her understanding of the collapse in court, the claimant's transfer to hospital, and what happened thereafter.

(3) According to this report, the claimant's symptoms had resolved by the time she reached hospital, where the investigations and observations were normal. The diagnosis was, in lay terms, a faint. Dr...

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4 cases
  • Arron Banks v Carole Cadwalladr
    • United Kingdom
    • Queen's Bench Division
    • 13 June 2022
    ...and the consensus requirement. These are objective tests that turn on the inherent tendency of the words. See Ameyaw v McGoldrick [2020] EWHC 3035 (QB), Warby J, [48(4)]. It is not disputed that the common law test is 49 However, the common law rules have been modified by statute. For a pu......
  • Amrik Singh Sahota v Middlesex Broadcasting Corporation Ltd
    • United Kingdom
    • Queen's Bench Division
    • 5 March 2021
    ...common law test for whether a meaning is defamatory is uncontroversial. As recently summarised by Warby J in Ameyaw v McGoldrick [2020] EWHC 3035 (QB) at [48(4)]: “At common law, “A meaning or imputation, whether it be one of fact or opinion, is defamatory only if it would tend to have a s......
  • Yvonne Ameyaw v Christina McGoldrick
    • United Kingdom
    • Queen's Bench Division
    • 27 November 2020
    ...1 On the afternoon of 20 November 2020, I heard argument on matters consequential on the judgment I handed down on 12 November 2020 ( [2020] EWHC 3035 (QB)), and the order I made that day. The Claimant did not appear at the consequentials hearing, nor was she represented. Her mother, Mrs D......
  • Ms Y Ameyaw v Pricewaterhousecoopers Services Ltd: 2306002/2021
    • United Kingdom
    • Employment Tribunal
    • 3 April 2023
    ...identical complaint brought by the claimant against the respondent and others, he said (para 99 Ameyaw v McGoldrick and others [2020] EWHC 3035 (QB): “The claimant complains of statements made to the Tribunal in the course of these proceedings, in an application for an order. It is beyond s......
2 firm's commentaries
  • Data Protection Hot Topics - Thinkhouse (Video)
    • European Union
    • Mondaq European Union
    • 4 October 2021
    ...law firms from taking on such cases in the first place. An example of a case being transferred is that of Ameyaw v McGoldrick [2020] EWHC 3035 (QB) which included a claim for non-compliance with a subject access request. In that case, Mr Justice Warby, as he was then, held that the High Cou......
  • Data Protection Hot Topics - Thinkhouse (Video)
    • European Union
    • Mondaq European Union
    • 4 October 2021
    ...law firms from taking on such cases in the first place. An example of a case being transferred is that of Ameyaw v McGoldrick [2020] EWHC 3035 (QB) which included a claim for non-compliance with a subject access request. In that case, Mr Justice Warby, as he was then, held that the High Cou......

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