A lying litigant has failed with a libel claim brought over an email about her sent by an in-house solicitor.
The unnamed woman had issued proceedings in ZC v Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust after its deputy head of legal services, Joanne O’Sullivan, wrote to the court about her ongoing claim. The judge said O'Sullivan was an honest witness and acted properly throughout.
The court heard a doctor working at the hospital had been approached by the woman about providing an urgent statement in support of a claim she was making against her GP.
The woman used fake names and doctored correspondence from the court which she sent to hospital administrators. O’Sullivan emailed a court official saying no statement would be provided and the hospital had notified its NHS fraud investigation team to deal with the matter.
The woman told the High Court that O’Sullivan’s email conveyed that she was dishonest, fraudulent and suffering from a mental illness. She alleged it was part of a conspiracy against her by a group of Jewish people and 'made out of grudge, revenge, hate of Muslims, selfishness, fear from being sued for the wrongdoings and was in complete disregard of human dignity and the law'.
The hospital trust submitted that the contents of O'Sullivan's email were substantially true, there was no allegation of fraud, it was a statement of opinion, and the claimant could prove no serious harm was done to her reputation, given it was seen by just a handful of people.
The Honourable Mr Justice Julian Knowles said O'Sullivan was an 'honest, truthful and straightforward witness' who was able to support her evidence by reference to contemporaneous notes. The judge rejected any suggestion the solicitor, who the court heard is a Roman Catholic, was motivated by malice or improper motives. Throughout the process, she was found to be concerned to protect patient confidentiality.
The judge said the claimant admitted lying several times to hospital staff and doctoring court correspondence, and her evidence should be treated with 'real caution'.
The libel claim failed principally because O'Sullivan's email did not cause serious harm to the woman's reputation. The judge went on to say the defendant succeeded in showing the imputations, that the claiment was dishonest and fraudulent, were 'substantially true'. The judge also dismissed a claim for breach of human rights.