Updated: Judgement on Smith v Baker: A long running dispute still unresolved

Royal Courts of Justice

Judge warns she will block senders who flooded her office with 50 emails before hearing

Some readers of this blog will know that until two years ago I did report in a number of blogs the allegations of Esther Baker against former Liberal Democrat MP, John Hemming. Since then a judge has ruled against Esther Baker’s allegations and banned her from making them again and I have had an agreed settlement with Mr Hemming not to mention them.

There has been a sequel to this story culminating in Mr Hemming’s friend, Sam Collingwood Smith and Esther Baker being involved in a protracted dispute in the courts over tweets and forums on the Internet. The case culminated ( so far) in a hearing on the media and communications list at the Royal Court of Justice.

Today a woman judge used her discretion to refuse Mr Smith’s application to strike out her case and told Esther Baker to re-present her claim to the court within a proper legal framework.

Neither litigant is represented by lawyers. The pleadings and annexes according to the judge ran to 293 pages which shows how comments on Twitter and blogs can escalate into an extraordinary expensive dispute if they ever get into the courts.

The judge also issued an unusual statement at the end of her judgement warning she would block the email accounts of senders if they continued to flood her office over the dispute.

She said : “In the 10 days leading up to the hearing, I received well over 50 emails on this matter, not all from the parties. Some were properly alerting me to documents or issues I needed to decide or consider. Many
were not. The majority of those were copied to my listing clerk had to consider them to see if there was anything she was required to do. I received a further 15 emails after the hearing and before handing down this judgment, again some of which were properly sent; others were not.”

She concluded: “If I continue to receive unnecessary emails I will block the sender and all correspondence will have to be done through the post, the court’s generic email or CE file.”

The full judgement is here-Smith v Baker [2020] EWHC 2776 (QB) (20 October 2020)

It is a long read. I will not comment but leave you to make up your mind. The ruling has absolute privilege.

Update

At a further hearing today (Tuesday November 3) the judge refused permission for Sam Collingwood Smith to appeal her decision at the last hearing and rejected his claims that Esther Baker had breached an undertaking in an earlier case.

She also said she did accept his argument that as Esther Baker had used the definition of truth to defend herself in the proceedings that her statement that he was a Mackenzie friend to former MP John Hemming was inaccurate – as she saw no material difference between being a Mackenzie friend and a lay adviser to Mr Hemming in the various cases Mr Hemming brought against people who wrote about or helped Esther Baker.

Mr Smith does have the right to go to the Court of Appeal to seek permission to challenge the judge’s rulings.

The judge awarded costs to Mr Smith against Esther Baker and also laid down a procedure giving Esther Baker until November 27 to re present her arguments and submission and Sam Smith until December 29 to reply, Esther Baker will have until January 27 to reply to his new submission.

A further hearing is expected next February.