Speaking extra-judicially at the 5th Annual Harbour Lecture on 21 June 2017, and with considerable humour, Lord Clarke of the UK Supreme Court, gave two examples of integrity which are a testament to the way our common law system operates.
Click here for the full speech. “[I] was counsel in a maritime case against Nicholas Phillips, later of course Master of the Rolls, Lord Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Court. I handed him a document in the course of the trial which I intended him to have. Unfortunately, like a fool, I also gave him at the same time a number of my client’s witness statements, which were of course privileged and which I certainly did not intend him to see. . . . At the time this happened, there was as I recall no learning on the correct approach. Now there is. In fact he immediately returned them to me without looking at them. He did it instinctively without looking at the documents. He did it because it was the right thing to do in circumstances when he knew that I had disclosed them to him by mistake. The subsequent authorities show that his decision was correct”. “[I] was involved as a junior in a substantial piece of commercial litigation. It was the afternoon before the trial. I was present at a discussion with my leader, Michael Thomas QC, who was of course later Attorney General in Hong Kong. We thought that our clients’ case was probably correct but the evidence in support of it was thin. A brown envelope arrived addressed to my leader. He opened it. It was from counsel on the other side, who was then Michael Mustill QC (later of course Lord Mustill). It said, in effect: ‘Dear Michael, You might be interested in the enclosed document. Yours ever, Michael’. In the envelope was a document which showed that our clients’ case was correct and that they would almost certainly win if it was put before the court. The other side had to capitulate. The disclosure was of course an example of the operation of the English rules of disclosure. . . . These high standards are critical, not only in the world of which I (at any rate at one time) had experience, but across the board”.