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Fond memories of Mr Justice Eady, the privacy law judge

By John Donovan

Mr Justice Eady is the High Court Judge accused of being responsible for “bringing in a privacy law by the back door with a series of “arrogant and amoral” judgments…

Personally, I have fond memories of Mr Justice Eady. Royal Dutch Shell may take a different view.

On 18th April 1998 I was surprised to learn from Rachel Oldroyd, a reporter from the “Financial Mail On Sunday”, that Shell had issued a press statement that clearly inferred that previous claims I had brought against the oil giant were bogus, thus repeating a libel of March 1995 , which Shell had already settled at some considerable cost to Shell shareholders.

The following day, the “Mail On Sunday” published a report written by Rachel actually quoting from the Shell press statement. Shell issued a further libelous press statement on 25th April 1998 and then on 27th April 1998, capped it all by circulating a letter to its service station network containing a further libel. A trade magazine subsequently published an article relying on the information in Shell’s press statements. Also in April 1998, Shell had circulated a libelous statement about us to Shell staff.

What Shell had not anticipated is that we would get our hands on the offending materials. Friendly publications and Shell petrol station managers had been happy to supply us with copies, so that we had an astonishing array of hard evidence against Shell.

Although we did not find out until making our first application to Shell under the Data Protection Act, Shell published in a Shell internal magazine in November 1998, a libelous article about my father (Alfred Donovan) and me under the headline: “FUEL FOR THOUGHT: DEFENDING THE COMPANY’S GOOD NAME AND REPUTATION.” It was authored by Shell’s rule bending Legal Director, Richard Wiseman, now retired.

In view of the past history of the claims Shell had already settled and the unsolicited written apology we had received from Dr Chris Fay, the then CEO & Chairman of Shell UK Limited, the new allegations were distressing and damaging.

What made it even more galling is that Shell’s sleazy solicitors,  DJ Freeman, had previously warned in writing about us issuing ANY press statements concerning the previous litigation. They said it would be a breach of the secrecy agreements. Apparently they believed that the relevant agreements were binding on David, but not on Goliath.

My solicitors wrote to DJ Freeman confirming that a libel writ had been served and that as a result of the libelous press releases, Shell was “…self-evidently in breach of the Funding Deed and there is no room to argue to the contrary”.

Shell subsequently tried to have the action struck out on the basis that the words used were not potentially libelous.

Mr Justice Eady ruled against Shell and ordered the company to pay the substantial costs of the hearing held at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

The case was one of those later settled by Shell, with Shell paying all of my legal costs. I also received a payment.

It appears from current email correspondence with Shell that the company has in recent months obtained legal advice about us and our website. We will see if Shell has the courage to face us once again in court to discuss its nefarious activities.

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