A single judge sitting in the High Court had jurisdiction to make a committal order for an alleged contempt of court in proceedings that were commenced in the county court but were subsequently transferred to the High Court.
The appellant (T) appealed against a decision that a single judge sitting in the High Court had jurisdiction to hear an application by the respondent insurer (E) for T's committal for alleged contempt of court. T had issued proceedings in the county court alleging that a car had run into the back of his car. He claimed the sum of £1,450.54 for credit hire, plus interest and costs. E was added as a second defendant to the proceedings and filed a defence asserting that T's claim was dishonest and part of a plot to defraud it. T filed a notice of discontinuance in respect of the claim, but on E's application the notice was set aside and the matter transferred to the High Court. E made that application in order to seek an order for the committal of T for contempt under CPR r.32.14 for making a false statement. E's case was that the committal application would be heard by the same judge who would hear the evidence in the substantive trial; that course would save court time and resources and a substantial amount of costs that would be expended if the matter were heard in the county court and the committal application then had to be made to and heard by the Divisional Court. The judge in the High Court struck out T's claim and made an order for costs. He held that he had jurisdiction under CPR Sch.1 Ord.52 r.1(3) to grant permission for E to commence committal proceedings against T for making a false statement in a document verified by a statement of truth, namely the particulars of claim. T contended that the statement of truth was made in connection with proceedings in the county court and therefore in accordance with CPR Sch.1 Ord.52 r.1(2) an order of committal could only be made by a Divisional Court and a single judge of the High Court had no jurisdiction.
HELD: Order 52 r.1(3) applied to "any proceedings in the High Court" and those words were wide enough to cover proceedings that were not started in the High Court, but were transferred to it from the county court. What mattered was whether the alleged contempt was committed "in connection with" those proceedings. The proceedings in the High Court were the very same proceedings that were in the county court. There was only one set of proceedings and the alleged contempt was committed in connection with them. On the transfer to the High Court the proceedings "in connection with" which the alleged contempt was committed did not become a different set of proceedings separate from those that were in the county court, Brighton and Hove Bus and Coach Co Ltd v Brooks (2011) EWHC 806 (Admin) disapproved. That interpretation was more consistent with the overriding objective of the CPR than the decision of the Divisional Court in Brighton and Hove that only the Divisional Court had jurisdiction where contempt was alleged in proceedings that had been transferred from the county court to the High Court (see paras 32-35 of judgment).
For the appellant: Kevin Metzger (Direct Access)
For the respondent: Mark Turner QC, Paul Higgins
For the respondent: Horwich Farrelly
Reported - Esure v Tariq Ali  EWCA Civ 1582