Libel trial unsafe because of Leveson judges overbearing and bullying behaviour Court

A “threatening, overbearing and bullying” High Court judge rendered a libel trial unfair, the Court of Appeal found.Mr Justice Jay, who rose to prominence in his role as counsel to the Leveson Inquiry, was criticised by three senior judges for his behaviour in overseeing a libel case.Jan Tomasz Serafin, a 67-year-old Polish émigré, claimed damages for libel regarding a double-page article in Nowy Czas [New Time], a monthly Polish-language magazine popular with the Polish community in London.However Mr Justice Jay developed an “animus” towards him – frequently interrupting him and accusing him of lying, and as a result treated his case unfairly, according to Court of Appeal Judges.In “an excoriating judgment” they said: “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.” “On numerous occasions, the Judge appears not only to have descended to the arena, cast off the mantle of impartiality and taken up the cudgels of cross-examination, but also to have used language which was threatening, overbearing and, frankly, bullying. One is left with the regrettable impression of a Judge who, if not partisan, developed an animus towards the Claimant.”They said that they had “carefully considered and reflected upon this matter and are driven to the conclusion that the nature, tenor and frequency of the Judge’s interventions were such as to render this libel trial unfair”. “We, therefore, uphold the Claimant’s fifth Ground of Appeal,” they added.The Court of Appeal reversed Mr Justice Jay’s judgments on a number of grounds, including  unfair judicial treatment”. Mr Justice Jay was Leading Counsel to the Leveson Inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press from 2011 to 2012.In June 2013 he was appointed to the High Court Bench, and sits in the Queen’s Bench Division. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. However later that year Mr Serafin became involved in Kolbe House Society Care Home a care home for elderly Polish people situated in the Ealing Common area of London. In 2006 he had started bringing free bread for the house and resumed this six-years-later.However, in October 2014 an article entitled ‘Bankruptcy Need Not Be Painful’ appeared in Nowy Czas and Mr Serafin claimed that it contained “numerous serious defamatory allegations about him and amounted, in effect, to a character assassination”.Mr Serafin took out the claim against Grzegorz Malkiewicz, the editor of the publication, and Czas Publishers Limited and Teresa Bazarnik-Malkiewicz who are its co-publishers.Mr Justice Jay dismissed Mr Serafin’s libel claim for libel following a 7-day trial in November 2017 and the former businessman took his case to the Court of Appeal where three senior judges criticised his treatment of the claimant and the case.The case was heard yesterday [ FRI] at the Court of Appeal before Lord Justice Lewison, Lord Justice McCombe and Lord Justice Haddon-Cave who upheld the appeal.In a ruling they said: “It will be immediately apparent from reading these extracts… that the Judge’s interventions during the Claimant’s evidence were highly unusual and troubling. The court heard that in August 2011 a bankruptcy order was made against Mr Serafin in respect of his food business, Polfood (UK) Ltd. The Official Receiver found misconduct by the Claimant on the basis that he had disposed of £123,743 whilst insolvent and in August 2012 he was made subject to a five-year Bankruptcy Restrictions Undertaking.

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