Judgment in court case between ex-staffer and Labour delayed

Sienna Rodgers
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The judgment in a court case between former senior party staffer Emilie Oldknow and the Labour Party was expected this morning but has been delayed after the judge outlined a number of concerns.

Oldknow, a former executive director of the Labour Party who was named in an internal report that was leaked last year, is seeking to force Labour to disclose the identities of those who leaked the document.

Her barrister William Bennett QC, who described the report as a “one-sided factional attack” on ex-officials in the hearing on Monday, has applied for a ‘Norwich Pharmacal order’ to force the disclosure.

But the judge, Justice Tipples, said she would not give judgment on Tuesday morning as she requires more assistance in relation to the law and has a number of concerns about Oldknow’s application.

She noted that although the Labour Party claims neutrality on the application, describing itself as being in a “piggy-in-the-middle position”, the party may be in a position of conflict as it has been accused of wrongdoing.

Oldknow set out in June last year that she has a claim against the party over alleged libels, breaches of her data protection rights and more, which means Labour is an alleged wrongdoer though the party denies wrongdoing.

Norwich Pharmacal orders are usually granted against innocent third parties that have been mixed up in wrongdoing. The third party discloses information allowing the applicant to bring legal action against the actual alleged wrongdoer.

This case appears to be different because the applicant has also accused the third party – the Labour Party – of wrongdoing in this matter. The judge said the party may therefore be in a position of conflict.

The judge also raised the witness statement of Labour’s legal head, who said the party has “no smoking gun” document showing demonstrably and beyond any doubt that a particular individual was the source of the leak.

Justice Tipples said she was concerned that naming those suspected by Labour of leaking the report has potential for injustice. She asked: “How can I be sure that innocent persons are not named? And if named, won’t suffer harm?”.

The judge agreed with Oldknow’s barrister William Bennett QC, Labour’s lawyer Anya Proops QC and Jacob Dean, the lawyer of five people accused of leaking the report, to deal with those points in a hearing at noon on Friday.

She ruled on Monday that the five anonymous individuals represented by Carter-Ruck could not intervene in the case, but there is a possibility that they could make representations via Unite the Union, which is supporting their legal costs.

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