James Counsell QC in second indemnity costs order after another historical abuse finding
Hard on the heels of the indemnity costs order made against Blackpool FC, comes a second judgment against Jehovah’s Witnesses relating to sexual abuse offences.
James Counsell QC has secured yet another judgment on Monday 23 March (BXB v Watch Tower and Bible Tract Society of Pennsylvania and Another  EWHC 656, LTL 24/3/2020 :  3 WLUK 321) just three days after he obtained judgment against Blackpool FC where the Defendant, this time the Jehovah’s Witnesses, refused to negotiate in the face of repeated efforts by the Claimant’s solicitors to engage them in settlement negotiations.
Jehovah’s Witnesses Liable for Rape
Chamberlain J had previously given judgment against the organisation on 30 January 2020 after he had found the organisation vicariously liable for a rape committed by one of their elders on a 29-year old woman. Read the original judgment here.
He imposed an indemnity costs sanction, not just because the Claimant ‘beat’ her own offer but also because he held that the Defendants had conducted the claim unreasonably.
He also ordered them to make a payment on account of costs in the sum of £240,000.
He rejected a Defence submission that it would be wrong to make an indemnity costs order in circumstances where the Defence may wish to argue that the costs were disproportionate (para 12). Finding that the Defendants had acted unreasonably he said (paragraph 8):
“The direction in this case imposed two obligations on the parties: first, an obligation to consider ADR ‘at all stages’; second, when refusing to engage in a form of ADR suggested by the other party, to serve a witness statement explaining the reasons within 21 days of the proposal. In this case, neither party appears to have suggested ADR for the best part of a year after the direction was made. The Defendants’ initial suggestion of a global settlement was rejected for the (good) reason that it would put the Claimant’s solicitors in an impossible position.
After that, the Claimant suggested a joint settlement meeting, but the Defendants refused on 25 February 2019. At that stage, they were ‘not engaging in [a form of ADR] proposed by another’ and so should, under the terms of the direction, have served a witness statement explaining why. They did not do so. Indeed, there is still no witness statement explaining why they chose not to have a joint settlement meeting. This is, therefore, a case not just of silence in the face of an invitation to participate in ADR, but of breach of an obligation imposed by court order to explain a refusal so to participate. That conduct is, in my judgment, unreasonable.”
This is the second claim in which James Counsell QC has successfully represented a claimant against the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The first involved sexual abuse of a child by a ministerial servant of the organisation and ended in judgment being given in the claimant’s favour in November 2015 by Globe J. Permission to appeal that decision was refused.
James specialises in acting for victims of historical sexual abuse. James is currently instructed in cases against football clubs and other sporting bodies, religious and educational organisations and the Scout Association. To instruct James or find out more, please contact Graham Woods or Chris Rowe on +44 (0)20 7353 6381.
Barristers: James Counsell QC