The Court of Appeal has upheld a first instance decision requiring the claimant Iranian bank to produce customer documents in unredacted form, subject to measures to protect their confidentiality, despite the fact that compliance would put the claimant in breach of Iranian law: Bank Mellat v HM Treasury  EWCA Civ 449.
This case gives a helpful illustration of the court’s approach where a party asserts that the production of documents under its disclosure obligations will contravene foreign criminal law. The court will balance the actual risk of prosecution in the foreign jurisdiction against the importance of the documents to the fair disposal of the trial. While the risk of prosecution will be a factor to weigh in the balance, it will not be determinative.
It is interesting to compare the High Court’s similar decision, albeit in a contrasting context, in the recent case of ACL Netherlands BV v Lynch (considered here). In that case the court declined to grant a party permission to use documents received on disclosure in the English litigation in order to comply with a US grand jury subpoena. Both decisions deal with a scenario where documents are required for proceedings in one jurisdiction but production will put the party in breach of its obligations under the (civil or criminal) law of another jurisdiction. Both decisions highlight the difficulties that may be faced by a party that finds itself caught between conflicting obligations in this way.