The Employment Appeal Tribunal in the recent case of Chidzoy v British Broadcasting Corporation has upheld a strike-out ruling on the basis that the claimant had discussed her case with a journalist whilst under oath.
Ms Chidzoy brought several claims against the BBC. Cross-examination of Ms Chidzoy ran across several days, during which she was told on six occasions of her obligation not discuss the trial whilst under oath. During a break on the last day of her cross-examination Ms Chidzoy was seen speaking to a journalist and referring to the term “Rottweiler”. The cross-examination immediately prior to the break had concerned a reference to Ms Chidzoy as “Sally Shihtzu” and whether or not she would have objected to being referred to as “Sally Terrier” or “Sally Rottweiler”.
The BBC applied for the claim to be struck out, claiming that it was no longer possible to have a fair trial. Ms Chidzoy claimed that she had merely been exchanging pleasantries with the journalist. The Tribunal found that her explanation was implausible and granted the strike out on the grounds that the Tribunal’s trust in Ms Chidzoy had been irreparably damaged.
This decision was upheld on appeal to the Employment Appeal Tribunal.
This decision is a reminder of the importance of observing the rule that parties and witnesses, whilst under oath, must not discuss their case with any third party. The Tribunals take this very seriously because of the real risk of the corruption of evidence. Clear warnings are given before witnesses give evidence and there is a significant risk of full or partial strike out if these are not adhered to.