Wednesday, 7 December 2011

No Cause of Action

About a week or so ago (25th November 2011) I had cause to send a letter to a Mr Ian Austin. Mr Austin is a solicitor. He also sits on the University of Salford's governing body - the University Council. His role on the University Council is as a member of the University Audit Committee. Mr Austin was until recently the Chair of this committee. He was also once upon a time the managing partner for a Manchester law firm called Halliwells which collapsed spectacularly in 2010.

Mr Austin was also an equity parter in the failed firm along with another 31 or so partners who it is reported shared out between them what's known in the substantive-ackers trade as a £20.4 million reverse premium. A reverse premium is neither a difficult driving manoeuvre for beginners nor is it related to an inverted but particularly aggressive form of the Fosbury Flop.

How not to approach a case management hearing

A Turner prize winner or a 
piss-poor excuse for a 
As I mentioned in our last posting, I attended a case management hearing on the 21st November. One might think they're quite sombre affairs. Far from it. I find my attention tends to wander quite a bit in such formal surroundings. I'm always amazed as the nature of the thoughts that can flash through the mind when one should really be concentrating on the matters in hand. More so when a certain chap is the official holder of a rather over-active imagination. Sitting there in the formal surroundings, the voices in the room quickly faded into the distance as my ears quickly readjusted their aural depth of field.

I wondered, as I sat and observed Mr Austin sat behind the University's rather dashing barrister Simon Vaughan, had the poor chap over-extended himself in the essential life-juices department? He looked healthy enough. Why should such a thought cross my mind? Well Mr Austin is on record as stating that 'I gave my life for that practice' meaning the LLP formerly known as Halliwells, a statement that I found at the time to be rather amusing. I still found it amusing at 2:25pm in court on the 21st November 2011. And my recent decision to study for a GCSE in mathematics was clearly paying off as ratios, percentages and proportions, and indeed proportionality, danced merrily across my brain's large-scale network. Avid readers of this blog will immediately recognise that the brain's large-scale network is said to be explicitly involved in visual, spatial and analogical mental transformations.

The Scale of Life

It was a pertinent question and it demanded an almost immediate answer from me despite the obvious hurdles. I had to find out precisely how much had this affable legal character's life-force been physically shoe-horned into Halliwells LLP? Was it ten percent..? maybe fifty percent..? 96.3 percent? I then remembered that he was around 48-49 years of age. With ease I slipped into imperial measurements. Was it one fifth..? half a pint..? 96.3 percent..?  Moreover how had he achieved this remarkable feat? What was the precise mechanism utilised by Mr Austin to transfer his essentiality into the failed law firm?

Nothing like an absurd  natural history compendium commissioned by David Attenborough

Firstly, I tried to scale it mentally. I pictured the words 'Jack 'O' Shit' at one end of the scale and the land beyond the River Styx occupied by the Dark Hadean Lord and a few million wandering souls at the other.  By now my mind was about as far from the esoterica of case management hearings as it could possibly be and remain in earthly contact with grounded theory. Like some open-market Liberace I found I could switch with apparent ease between ancient Greek mythological metaphors and the banal motoring platitudes of an adroit Clarkson. I firmly shifted the gear lever into mental overdrive and slammed my foot on the accelerator. I imagined a passport sized mug shot of the congenial Austin desperately racing back and forth between the two, like some sort of sweaty sub-frenzied post-industrial Henry Spencer haggling with an irked Charon in pigeon Etruscan. But it was no good. I couldn't maintain this extreme mental resolution without complaints from my frontal lobes and engineers at Paramount Pictures back in 1954. Despite my best intentions, I found this model wanting. It simply didn't get the intellectual juices flowing sufficiently.

Enter Mephistopheles?

I changed tack and decided to let a combination of metaphysics, Swedish film and superstition have its way within my simmering cerebrality. Had Mr Austin entered in to some sort of Bergman-esque Faustian pact with the personification of Death and then realised he wasn't very adept at chess? I quickly rejected all the above as mostly silly. Besides Mr Austin appeared to be brimming over with life as he listened intently to the Judge suggesting that I could if I wished make an application to have their case struck out.

Your move you fuck!

Strike out what?

Some readers new to this blog might be asking 'why the devil is the University of Salford governing-body-Audit Committee-dwelling Mr Austin sitting in court regarding this matter?' Well in Savillian terms 'as it happens', Mr Austin is also acting for the University in the matter of the University of Salford versus Dr Gary Duke in his other role as a solicitor. Yes it's a good old libel punch-up and in the tradition of good old libel punch-ups it's already cost the University taxpayer/student fees payers so far as we can ascertain somewhere in the region of £40,000. Yes it is rather a lot isn't it? Despite being quite a large sum, some have suggested that it might also be a tad on the conservative side given the high costs libel proceedings. And we're not even half way to trial yet!

Good choice... good choice...

Now some might say that libel and media law is a rather arcane and specialist field. Which might go some way in explaining why a few people have commented upon the decision of the current Vice Chancellor Professor Martin Hall and his current Deputy Dr Adrian Graves to instruct Mr Austin in this matter. I mean there must be some overall strategy behind the hiring of a highly recommended commercial and property litigator to instigate libel proceedings? In my opinion, for what it worth, it has at least injected cart-loads of humour into the proceedings. Take a gander at the claimant's 'Particulars of Claim'.

Which is why I found myself writing to Mr Austin.

'Dear Mr Austin

Further to our discussion on Monday, I have considered the advice offered in Court by District Judge Richmond in consideration of his suggestion that I might apply to have the claim against me for defamation struck out. However, I would like to provide the Claimant (the University) with the opportunity to address what are clear and unambiguous deficiencies in their Particulars of Claim.

You are already aware through previous correspondence with the Court, that I have raised the matter of the lack of particularisation in the Claimant’s Particulars of Claim to which you responded in a letter to me dated 12th May 2011. In my letter to the Court I stated that the Particulars of Claim as they stand make it almost impossible to provide an adequate or indeed a comprehensive defence to the Claimant’s allegations. Moreover, the Particulars of Claim as provided by the claimant (the University) show no cause of action. With the Overriding Objective in mind, I again raise the issue that the Claimant (the University) has also failed to particularise damage or remedy which goes towards proportionality. I therefore extend to the Claimant the opportunity to reparticularise the Particulars of Claim and for the Claimant (the University) to show cause of action. With my eye on the Overriding Objectives, I am keen to keep the overall costs to a minimum and not waste the Court’s time. If the Claimant wishes to disregard this opportunity to reparticularise their Particulars of Claim and show a clear cause of action, I will apply to have the claim struck out and will of course ask for costs.

I am also interested to ascertain, and perhaps you could direct me towards, which rule or existing precedent allows Dr Graves and Professor Martin Hall to conflate their own reputations with that of the University and use this as the basis for initiating action for defamation and for funding their claim? Can you also confirm to me by reply if similarly, other University employees may take advantage of this course of action and this funding mechanism now or in the future.

I would view ten (10) working days from the date at the top of this letter as sufficient time to provide the above reparticularised POC, and also to provide the above answers to my enquiries.

I look forward to hearing from you with your full response to the above matters in due course.

Yours faithfully

Dr G P Duke'

The riders are under starter's orders...

I haven't yet had a reply from Mr Austin. But they have until Friday this week (9th December) to respond to my letter. It will be interesting to see precisely what Mr Austin and the University come up with this time. But just in case, my Application to have their claim struck out is prepared and ready to go off to the Court first thing next week!

Usual disclaimer: This work is the opinion of the author and is produced in order to report current events that are of public interest and public concern. The reproduction and use of any documents herein is to provide accuracy in order to avoid civil litigation and claims of misquoting. In reporting current events they are used within the context of Fair Dealing. The author is happy to provide further acknowledgement if requested. To make any such request press here.

The author also suggests that before embarking upon expensive civil actions for libel, contact the author. We have reams of documentary evidence which we are happy to provide. A right of reply also operates. We are also happy to make corrections and if necessary provide an apology. So, to save £££sss please avail yourself of this opportunity if you really feel it necessary, which you can do by clicking here.

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1 comment:

  1. Go for the jugular, Gary -- strike out all the way!