The recent case management decision in Harlequin Property (SVG) Ltd and Another v Wilkins Kennedy  EWHC 3050 (TCC) considered an application by the Defendant to withhold documents from inspection on the basis of confidentiality. The documents in question fell into two categories, namely: (i) documents created in the course of an investigation into the Claimants by the Serious Fraud Office ("SFO"); and (ii) documents that were confidential to the Defendant's third party clients.
The Court refused the Defendant's application to withhold either category. In a short judgment, Mr Justice Coulson explained his rationale that:
1. in this highly contentious case, the administration of justice and need to dispose fairly of the issues outweighed any public interest in withholding the documents generated by the SFO investigation; and
2. in relation to documents containing confidential information of third party clients:
a. where the clients in question were involved in the critical issues in dispute, there would be a real risk that these issues could not be disposed of fairly without inspection of these documents; and
b. even where the clients in question were unrelated to the case, the entire group of documents should be offered for inspection notwithstanding that it was "highly likely" they would be irrelevant. This approach was said to be justified on an "entirely pragmatic" basis, if the documents were indeed irrelevant then there would be no prejudice caused (save for costs, which could be dealt with by way of costs order).
To read more about the decision, click here,