UK: High Court judge Mr Justice Jay excoriated by Supreme Court

UK: High Court judge Mr Justice Jay excoriated by Supreme Court

Credit: UK Supreme Court

A High Court judge has been censured by the UK Supreme Court for directing a “barrage of hostility” towards a claimant in “immoderate, ill-tempered and at times offensive language”.

The libel case of Serafin v Malkiewicz and others was sent for retrial after five justices ruled that Mr Justice Jay had “harassed and intimidated” the claimant.

The judgment upheld an earlier one from the Court of Appeal that the judge’s finding against a Polish businessman should not stand.

Robert Jay came to prominence as lead counsel to the Leveson inquiry in 2011-12, where he questioned witnesses including actor Hugh Grant.

In 2017, he heard a defamation claim brought by Jan Serafin, 67, against the Polish-language magazine, Nowy Czas (New Time), widely read by Poles in the UK. The magazine made various allegations about him, including that he abused his position as the manager of a Polish social and cultural association. Mr Justice Jay ruled in favour of the magazine following a seven-day trial.

Mr Serafin appealed to the Court of Appeal. In its ruling, it stated: “In our view the judge not only seriously transgressed the core principle that a judge remains neutral during the evidence, but he also acted in a manner which was, at times, manifestly unfair and hostile to the claimant.”

In its judgment handed down remotely yesterday, the Supreme Court agreed with the appeal court on Mr Justice Jay’s conduct but stated that the publishers of Nowy Czas were entitled to make a public interest defence in the libel claim, contrary to the Court of Appeal’s ruling.

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