7 thoughts on “Judge Awards Win to Effingham Charity in Defamation Case”

  1. As one of the defendants in this case there are a few other things I would add. Firstly it is absurd but unsurprising that Mr Nicholls should characterise his failure as due to the “technicality” of his not having served his claim correctly. Why an adult should be unable to post a few simple forms into a postbox in a timely manner is anyone’s guess, but his assertion is disingenuous. As the judge states in his ruling “the claim is doomed to failure on its own merits anyway”, going on to note that nothing defamatory had been sent by us to Mr Nicholls and that what had been sent had not been published by us. The judge also noted Mr Nicholls’ free admission in court that it was he himself who had shown the letter to others around the village, a fact that had also been known to us more than two years ago. So his “defamation” claim was simply ridiculous from the start, and became only more so as time went on.

    In building his claim Mr Nicholls was aided by several other parties all having their own peculiar agendas. One of these saw his role as bombarding the defendants with long rambling letters full of unfounded accusations and crudities laced with ill-educated pontifications about the law. Mr Nicholls unwisely paid heed to these other parties whilst steadfastly ignoring explanations from us as to why his claim could not possibly succeed. But he shut his mind to these and merely blundered on.

    The EVRT charity had to defend against this claim, just as it had had to write (under legal advice) to Mr Nicholls the material of which he complained. The matter has taken not only time from our lives, but thousands of pounds out of the charity, money which Trustees, employees and, especially, volunteers had worked hard to bring in as income. We are pleased that, in recognition of the defendants having been at no fault at all in any of this, the judge has seen fit to award full costs to us.

    Charity trustees are obliged to respond to potentially damaging incidents on their premises, such as those that lay at the origin of this claim. Dealing with such things is part of the price of public and voluntary endeavour. However, the Trustees of EVRT should now draw confidence from the outcome of this case that they can exercise their responsibilities without fear of claims that are manifestly groundless.

  2. My name is Colin Ward. I acted as the McKenzie Friend in this matter for James Nicholls. To say that James had outside help by others with an agenda is beyond economical with the truth and rather sums up the writer and his motives.
    I was the only person who helped James as I was disgusted with the wording of the letter, its inference and the refusal by the 5 Defendants to act with any semblance of dignity and respect towards James Nicholls; as was my wife of 30 years.

    In the Court papers it set out that I had implored James to obtain legal help and advice if he went to the High Court, but James was determined to fight the slur in the way James does, so I offered to help him. James was forced to fight the worst slur anybody can put up against any man who only wanted to live in Effingham in quiet peace and enjoyment whilst retaining the right to complain loudly.
    It was always put to the Defendants that the words in the letter were not reasonable and were without foundation or truth. James challenged them to put down the male trustee names or the husbands and partners of the females in the room instead of James.

    James Nicholls was homeless for a short while and was unable to fund any legal action unlike the 5 named Defendants who stated in the court that they used Charity money to fund their legal action. The High Court initially severely criticised the actions of the 5 Defendants and their solicitors Wellers Hedley and stated that the issue was being caused by the Defendant’s actions. James’s case floundered on 2 legal principles which James could not afford to dispute. Colin Ward was only privy to the Defendant’s skeleton arguments (over 50 pages prepared by solicitors) 20 minutes before the hearing.
    Colin Ward helped James because it was the right thing to do. Colin Ward was in court and James stated he had shown the letter to the police and solicitor and also John Dicks whose name was mentioned in the Judgement and one other as John had been recipient of an inference regarding children. James argument was that once might be a mistake, twice might seem careless.
    Ian Sime who the judgement states approached James about the letter was not shown it by James, so someone showed him the letter.
    The Judge thanked Colin Ward for helping James.

    A question remains as to whether a Beddoe Order was obtained by the 5 or whether local taxpayer’s money was used outside of protocol and procedure.
    James lost because the Judge believed that by the 5 stating they had not distributed the words no offence under defamation had been committed and the Judge did not consider the words defamation because the words did not imply that James was not honourable and honest and upstanding. James also failed because the 2nd Judge over ruled the 1st judge who deemed that the matter should be heard despite James’s procedural errors.
    James got his case to the High Court whilst up against 5 persons funded by local taxpayers money (Chris Hogger’s words as I heard them in the court) and the legal system.
    My opinion (as a paralegal and debt collector) having listened to the case and now read all the skeleton arguments is that the Judge did not read all the evidence and may have made an error in law regarding a number of matters including the procedural errors committed by the High Court, but whatever the ruling James was the winner because it is better to fight and lose for what is right than not to fight at all and I was proud I helped him.
    I was proud to be an Effingham resident for 16 years and played and managed Effingham FC Sunday for 12 years before I moved there.

    Having seen this matter at first hand I am now pleased to have moved out to Weymouth if the modus operandi of the 5 Defendants as I heard in the court is the way Effingham politics and lifestyle is going.

  3. In response to Mr Ward, it is worth quoting a little more of the judgement handed down on this case from Master Davison, the judge from the Queen’s Bench division of the High Court where the hearing was held last week.

    Having said Mr Nicholls’ claim had not been served in the appropriate timescale, Master Davison’s Order continued:

    “2. In any event the claim would fall to be struck out because there are no reasonable grounds for bringing it and/or that it would fall to be dismissed because it has no real prospect of success.”

    In his reasons for the Order, paragraph 10, Master Davison says “…in my judgement the claim is doomed to failure on its merits anyway… This is because the claimant does not formally allege and nor is there any evidence at all that the defendants published the letter of which he complains.”

    In paragraph 16 Master Davison says “In addition to there being no evidence of publication, the part of the letter of which the complainant complains does not bear the defamatory meaning he alleges.”

    So there you have it: in the opinion of a High Court judge the letter sent to Nr Nicholls by us, the EVRT trustees in May 2017, did not make a defamatory allegation and in addition it was not published by us. Those are of course the two basic prerequisites of any claim for libel (written defamation).

    Mr Nicholls’ claim actually stated that the five defendants were “acting as representatives of a Trust. The Trust is Effingham Village Recreation Trust.” Therefore of course EVRT was obliged to defend the right of trustees to take action considered necessary to protect the interests of the KGV charity. Chris Hogger did NOT say at the hearing that the defence had been funded by “local tax payers’ money” as Mr Ward alleges. Chris said quite correctly that the defence had been funded by the charity, so effectively the local community has paid to defend the EVRT trustees from a groundless claim. Mr Nicholls has been ordered by the court to pay the defendants’ costs, so that hopefully EVRT and our community will be reimbursed in due course.

    The stuff about the Beddoe Order is total nonsense. Charity Commission guidance makes absolutely clear that a charity is entitled to defend itself against defamation claims having taken professional legal advice. A Beddoe Order can only be sought from the courts in exceptional circumstances which certainly do not apply in this case.

    And by the way, the defendants’ skeleton argument was prepared personally by us, and not by our solicitors as Mr Ward claims. We have sought to minimise the charity’s legal costs throughout this case, so we prepared the papers and represented ourselves at the hearing.

    As I have said previously, we, the defendants, are all volunteers with a public service ethos, who gave up our time over many years to manage the King George V Hall and Fields for the benefit of Effingham residents. We have all given up many more hours of our time to defend EVRT against this groundless claim. I hope the outcome in this case will give current and future trustees the confidence to know they can take responsible action when necessary without fear of litigation, and we can all now move on from this disgraceful affair.

  4. There are three final points I feel need to be made in response to the comments made by Mr Ward.

    Firstly, he states that “The High Court initially severely criticised the actions of the 5 Defendants and their solicitors Wellers Hedley and stated that the issue was being caused by the Defendant’s actions”. It is all very well for him to claim this but neither the defendants nor our solicitors have seen any such criticism. What did transpire is that the first Master dealing with the initial paperwork had been written to (not by us) to the effect that Mr Nicholls had served his claim within the period of validity, which was untrue. That Master therefore mistakenly believed there had been some failure on our part to acknowledge service.

    Secondly, Mr Ward incorrectly states that the judgment says that the Chairman of the Parish Council “approached James about the letter”. It says no such thing. It says only that Mr Nicholls had been told by the Chairman “that it would be in everyone’s interests if the case was dropped”. The relevant paragraph on this matter makes no mention of the “letter” or any other particular of the case. It is careless, at the least, of Mr Ward to misrepresent in public in this way a High Court ruling.

    Thirdly, it is silly and baseless for Mr Ward to suggest that the judge “did not read all the evidence and may have made an error in law”. I think we can all reliably infer who is the more likely to be in error concerning the law – a Master of the Queen’s Bench Division or a debt collector of Weymouth.

    Mr Ward says he is pleased to have moved to Weymouth and I can readily affirm that it pleases me even more.

  5. I have a copy of the Judgement from Master Kay of the High Court setting out the criticisms if anybody wishes to contact Colin Ward by email or if it pleases Chris Hogger I will pop around his house on Saturday morning July 8 and make him read it with the use of minimum force and maximum prejudice .
    To those reading this you only need to ask a simple question:
    Why would someone send references to child abuse to 2 separate people on two separate occasions and why did the person who signed the letters not turn up in Court to be questioned?
    James Nicholls was forced to go to court and was only seeking an apology, a retraction of the words and and a commitment that it would never be repeated. I was a neighbour of the Hoggers for 16 years and was always a fan of Liz Hogger, and her input and energy into local matters as was my wife, who was shocked and disgusted by the words in the letters and their subsequent actions. There are plenty of examples of people winning libel cases but it was subsequently found out they were not honest and nice people. Robert Maxwell springs to mind.

  6. 3 points
    1/ Anybody can see the High Court Judgement and criticism from Master Kay. Just email me on info@cwlegalservices.com; or I can pop around on Saturday July 7 at 11.00 if Chris Hogger wishes to read it as he obviously has not read it. I’ll post it via any forum.
    2/ Ask Ian Sime where he heard about the letter.
    3/The Judge read a letter that had Without Prejudice all over it that was agreed would only a draft and would not be disclosed to anybody except 4 persons named here as Liz Hogger Sue Morris , James Nicholls and Colin Ward so he did not read all the evidence as he missed that bit and referenced the letter in his Judgement.

    One final point. I was at the court and none of the 4 there would look Colin Ward in the eye. They stood there looking at the floor looking very nervous and frightened. I said to James on the way in Win or lose we’ll have a booze. If we draw we drink some more. In law the decision is that one side wins and one sides loses, but James’s fought the correct fight in the correct way for the correct reasons. History will be the judge of this matter. history says that the winner gets to write the story not the person who acted correctly. Again any one of the 5 wish to meet Colin Ward face-to-face I am happy for this Saturday

  7. Making threats on the EFFRA website is totally inappropriate behaviour, and I hope Colin Ward refrains himself.

    What everyone is forgetting is that there was an incident involving James Nicholls back in 2017 that upset the Trustees, resulting in them writing a private letter to him. Whether the letter was appropriate or not is inmaterial and also impossible to judge without knowing the details of the original incident, which the majority of us are ignorant of. The incident should never have happened in the first place! Also the majority of us are totally ignorant of the content of the letter, and have no desire to know its contents. That James Nicholls decided to potray himself as the victim with no remorse for his orginal actions, and take inappropriate legal action (as ruled by a High Court Judge), has done him no favours.

    Hopefully this is the end of the affair.

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