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Sat 20 July 2019
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High Court Judge describes court action as “futile” and characterises part of a former tabloid journalist’s evidence as “irrelevant” and “scurrilous”.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Byline Times’ sister site Byline.com is in an ongoing Impress arbitration with Dennis Rice. Byline Times is a separate publisher and court reporter James Doleman is not party to that litigation and had no prior knowledge of it until he attended court this week. With this declaration of interest, Byline Times is confident that what follows is a fair and accurate account of Tuesday’s hearing.


A former journalist, who claimed that evidence in a phone hacking case had damaged his therapy business, faces a £60,000 bill after his legal action was dismissed as “totally without merit” at the High Court.

Dennis Rice, who also worked for the Daily Express, Sunday Mirror and Mail on Sunday, was employed at the now defunct News of the World in 1998 at a time when unlawful information gathering is alleged to have been rife.

While the criminal cases about phone hacking are over, alleged victims are still suing News Group Newspapers and Mirror Group Newspapers for compensation.

Rice was mentioned in a witness statement deployed in May 2018, as part of a court hearing involving News Group Newspapers regarding a witness statement about the books kept by private investigator Steve Whittamore, which were seized by the Information Commissioner’s Office in Operation Motorman in 2003 and led to Whittamore’s conviction for illegal information gathering.

Rice was applying to have his name removed from thhat witness statement (submitted by Claimants’ solicitor Chris Hutchings) set out below.

104. These books also contain occasional names of journalists from other newspapers, but who later went on to work for NGN, such as DENNIS RICE, and presumably – as pleaded by the Claimants – carried on the same practice of unlawful information gathering they had practised at their previous titles.

110. Based on a preliminary analysis, and by way of example, the following journalists feature in the Orange, Red, Yellow and Green books, or are namedon invoices submitted by JJ Services, and went on to work for The Sun and News of the World, often in senior roles: Tom Newton-Dunn, DENNIS RICE, Paul Field, Simon Young, Polly Graham, Sally Brook, Gerard Cousens, Ian Edmondson, Danielle Gusmaroli, Mike Jarvis, Emma Jones, Neil Mcleod and Alun Palmer.


Rice’s application was heard by the Honourable Mr Justice Mann in Court 17 of London’s Rolls Building earlier this week (14 May). Rice, who represented himself throughout the hearing, rose first and made his case.

His application, he said, was in part a “public interest argument”. On the issue of why he was pressing to have his name dissociated from illegal newspaper practices he told the court: “I had to prove my innocence.” He provided extensive arguments as to why he was not involved in what was being alleged and said he “knew it wasn’t” him.

Rice said that the words in the witness statement had been reported online on Byline.com. He told the courts the reports had hurt his therapy practice, as anyone using Google would find the piece that named him and may not have chosen his services.

“I would rather face bankruptcy than have my family thinking I’m a criminal” he said, adding that “the legal system is weighed against me”.

“I would rather face bankruptcy than have my family thinking I’m a criminal” he said, adding that “the legal system is weighed against me”.

The judge explained that no court had the power to do what Rice wanted. A witness statement was just that – what a witnesses’ evidence is. A court can test that at a trial, but it cannot just order someone to change their story.

There was also the problem of “standing”. Mr Justice Mann told Rice that, in the case in question, various claimants were suing News Group Newspapers, which he no longer worked for. He was not a litigant in that case, not a witness, and not a defendant. Simply put: “it’s nothing to do with you”.

If courts allowed anyone to start making motions in other people’s court cases “this would lead to the danger of extensive satellite litigation”, the judge said. “This case is not particularly special to take us out of the norm.”

Earlier Sara Mansoori, for the claimants, had responded by noting that her research had found no case where a judge had ordered to change a witness statement or to strike out evidence.

“There is no merit in Mr Rice’s application,” she said, but that despite having been informed of this, he had continued to the hearing. “He is not a party to this litigation so cannot challenge evidence,” she said. She also told the court that the witness who made the statement in question, Christopher Hutchings (a partner of the law firm Hamlins, currently suing News Group Newspapers) stood by his statement and still believes his evidence to be true.

Rice replied that entries in evidence that named a journalist called “Rice” could not be proven to be him. He also claimed that “blagging” personal data – the illegal information gathering that Whittamore was convicted of – was, in any event, not criminalised until the Data Protection Act 1998 came into effect 2000. “That’s not how the law works,” he told the judge, who then retired for 45 minutes to consider his ruling.


When proceedings resumed Mr Justice Mann gave his judgment.

Rice’s legal action was “futile” because the article to which he had an objection would remain online, and that his remedy lay in the fact that the published article had included his denials.

“The court has no power to order the re-drafting of a document, especially a witness statement,” the judge said, adding – in relation to a second application by Mr Rice to obtain a witness statement not yet deployed in the case – that Rice “is not entitled to invoke public interest as this is not a public enquiry”.

The applications were then dismissed.

Ms Mansoori rose to say that Mr Rice’s case was “totally without merit,” and wished this to be added to the judgment. This would require the court to consider imposing a civil restraint order banning Rice from bringing further applications in this case without permission from the court.

Mr Justice Mann formally noted that the applications were totally without merit, but that he would not impose such an order today and would consider it if Rice brought another, similar action.

“I don’t have £60,000” Rice said, “I don’t want to be brutal but that’s not a factor,” the judge replied.

The court then moved to the question of costs.

Counsel for Hamlins then asked for £64,500 from Rice, equivalent to their costs in dealing with one of the two orders.

Lawyers for Mr Hutchings noted that Rice had “bombarded” the lawyers with correspondence and made serious allegations against the legal team, all of which had led to extra expense.

Rice said that he would have stopped the case if he had known before yesterday that he faced £60,000 in costs.

Mr Justice Mann told him: “If you had not brought it to court today the bill would be less than £60,000.

“I don’t have £60,000” Rice said.

“I don’t want to be brutal, but that’s not a factor,” the judge replied.

Mr Justice Mann then ordered an interim payment of £20,000 within 28 days, with further costs to be assessed.

The judge finally ruled that, what he called “irrelevant and scurrilous accusations” made by Rice in several of his witness statements not to be made part of the public record of the case to prevent their being reported under the protection of privilege.

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