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Trafigura vindicated? 115-page “Reply” which the company says rebuts the BBC’s case

with 5 comments

Trafigura’s Reply to the BBC’s libel Defence(PDF)

A few weeks ago Wikileaks published the 40-page court document in which the BBC laid out its defence against Trafigura’s libel claim, following this Newsnight report from May last year.

Trafigura had always insisted that the available scientific evidence vindicated them of blame for any deaths or serious injuries following the August 2006 Probo Koala toxic waste incident, and in December the BBC controversially withdrew their claims and agreed to pay damages. Yet Trafigura have never published the evidence which they say vindicates them, despite repeated requests.

Following the publication of the BBC document by Wikileaks, the blogger Calum Carr again contacted Trafigura to request their side of the story, but again to no avail.

Calum and I have now obtained this document ourselves. Given today’s very promising news about the libel reform campaign, we felt that this was a good moment to put the information out into the public domain, so that people can form their own view on this contentious issue.

Obtaining an electronic copy of this document has been an interesting process in itself. To do this, I had to:

1. Go to the High Court in person

2. Make a formal request for a copy of the document (giving full personal details including my home address)

3. Wait several days

4. Phone the High Court to see if the copy was ready

5. Visit the High Court again in person

6. Pay a not-insignificant photocopying fee

7. Pick up the paper copy of the document

8. Take the copy to a specialist document scanning company to get it turned into a PDF

9. Pay another fee

10. Wait another few days, before receiving the PDF via email.

This is apparently standard procedure for getting hold of key UK court documents. One would almost have thought that the legal authorities did not actually want the British public to have ready access to documents which are, at least in theory, available to all of us by right…

We might compare the above process to the mechanism involved in, say, accessing the text of a Parliamentary Question or a Select Committee report, eg:

1. Visit the Parliament website

2. Type in a relevant search term

2. Download the information (for free).

For all the concerns we might have about the current workings of the Parliament, its processes currently seem a whole lot more open transparent than those of the judiciary. Apart from anything else, the requirement that one has to visit the High Court in person to access a public document seems inherently discriminatory to anyone living a significant distance from London.

If and when we get some real progress on libel reform, it seems to me that opening up the judiciary to at least the same levels of scrutiny we have for Parliament could be an important next step.

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Written by Richard Wilson

March 23, 2010 at 8:00 pm

5 Responses

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  1. Good work and thanks for your efforts! As a non-Londoner I’m glad you put in the legwork.

    Julia Smith

    March 23, 2010 at 8:50 pm

  2. Be sure to help the people over at FreeLegalWeb (http://www.freelegalweb.org/) who are trying to get all law related information freed…

    Francis Irving

    March 24, 2010 at 12:12 am

  3. […] Wilson on Trafigura’s rear guard action and the UK Court […]

  4. The fantasists and chancers at Greenpeace and their ilk filed a complaint against Trafigura at the Dutch Advertising Code Authority alleging that Trafigura lied in its Press Statement. The DACA has totally rejected that set of allegations.

    DACA has made a ruling concerning Greenpeace’s complaint about a Trafigura notice that appeared in several Dutch newspapers on 30 September 2009.

    DACA rejected most of the allegations made by Greenpeace within its complaint. In particular, DACA decided that none of the notice’s information concerning last year’s UK group action settlement was in any way misleading. This information included references to the Probo Koala’s slops, the findings of 20 independent experts who concluded that the slops could not possibly have caused deaths and serious injuries and the comments made about inaccurate media reporting by the judge, Mr Justice MacDuff. DACA also rejected Greenpeace’s accusations that Trafigura had acted improperly.

    What a load of bollocks but I guess that’s normal behaviour for Green Hysterics.

    G. Busch

    June 4, 2010 at 9:08 am


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