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Baird v Thurrock Borough Council, Court of Appeal, 7 November 2005

24 November 2005
The issues

Judge’s failure to give adequate reasons for preferring Claimant’s evidence

The facts

The Claimant was a dustman working for the Defendant local authority. A dustcart had two hoists at the rear for lifting bins and emptying them into the dustcart. The Claimant’s case was that the automatic operation of the hoist had cut in unexpectedly and despite the fact that he had overridden the automatic action with the right hand hoist and that he had been hit by the bin as it lowered. Two witnesses who worked with the Claimant said at Trial that the right hand hoist had been in the raised position after the accident and that if this had not been the case they could not have driven the cart away with the bin attached.

The Judge found the Claimant truthful and his evidence supported by the evidence of the joint expert. The Defendant appealed on the grounds that the Judge had failed to give any adequate reasons.

The decision

The Judge was entitled to express his views briefly. He had to express them clearly however. The Judge must address the main evidential conflicts and identify why the Judge found as he did. In this case it was unclear whether the Judge understood the importance of the evidence of the two witnesses. There was no finding as to whether the right hand bin had been up or down when the dustcart had driven off. The Judge had not said in what way the witness’s evidence was untruthful or inaccurate. The evidence of the joint expert was neutral as between the two accounts. In these circumstances the decision could not stand.

Appeal allowed. Re-trial ordered.

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