A law firm is taking legal action against the Police Federation over the fallout from its removal from the association’s panel of solicitors.
Yorkshire firm Haven Solicitors and its owner Ronald Thompson have brought the claim for slander and malicious falsehood based on words spoken or said to have been spoken at a meeting last year. The Police Federation’s head of civil claims Craig Hewitt is included in the action as a second defendant.
The firm was an approved member of the national group’s panel from 2014 until 2018, during which it provided legal services with regard to police pensions. An email and attached letter from the federation confirmed that it had been dropped due to ‘concerns about the services provided to our members’. Correspondence followed, with Haven seeking clarification about what grounds had been identified, but in the firm’s view it did not receive a satisfactory response.
At the same time, Haven took matters up with branch boards of the federation (there are 43 in all) asking for an explanation. This led to Hewitt making statements concerning the removal decision at the meeting, which was attended by various branch secretaries, and the claim arises from what was or is alleged to have been said.
Neither Thompson nor anyone from the firm was present at this meeting, but were given an account by some attendees. The federation’s case is that those attending the meeting were expressly told that the information being provided was confidential, and this dissemination was a breach of confidence.
The claim was the subject of a preliminary hearing before the High Court last month, at which a number of issues were dealt with by judge Richard Spearman QC.
The claimants applied for permission to amend the particulars of claim to plead claims for slander and malicious falsehood, based on a list of criticisms that Hewitt was alleged to have voiced. The claimants have also issued an application seeking an injunction designed, in substance, to prevent the defendants from interfering with their access to witnesses who are or may be able to provide evidence about what transpired at the meeting.
The judge granted permission to amend the claim and ordered that a one-day hearing for the injunction application be fixed on the first available and convenient date after 1 November.