1. This is the judgment of the Court on the substantive hearing of the Claimants' claim for orders against the Defendants (individually D1, D2 and D3) under the Court's powers to order delivery up or the provision of documents (or the information in them) and information about them. The substantive hearing was also, by agreement, used as the hearing of a challenge by D3 to the jurisdiction of the Courts of England & Wales in relation to the subject matter of the claim.
2. The claim is made in the context of major proceedings over the setting aside or enforcement of substantial arbitral awards against the Russian Federation (the RF).
Those proceedings are (so far as relevant for present purposes) in The Netherlands (the seat of the arbitrations), in England & Wales (enforcement proceedings) and in the United States of America (enforcement proceedings).
3. The Claimants (individually C1, C2, C3 and C4) describe the documents involved as comprising two categories:
"(a) documents held as part of an electronic archive. .. which the RF has claimed was handed over to it by an unidentified English journalist in September 2018 and (b) any copies of those documents which have made their way into the hands of any third party".
4. The Defendants are an English law firm (D1) and two individual lawyers (D2 and D3). D1 acted for the RF in the enforcement proceedings in England & Wales. D2 is a partner in D1. He is also a partner in the US firm associated with D1 and which acts for the RF in the US enforcement proceedings. The Claimants do not bring the claim against the US firm.
5. The Claimants' explanation to me for joining D2 personally, given in their written argument for an earlier interim hearing on 16 August 2022, was that relief was sought against D2 personally "so as to avoid a risk that he claims to have handled the information in a capacity other than as partner in [D1]". D2 has confirmed that he will not so claim. The Court is therefore able to treat any "handling" of documents or information by D2 as "handling" by D1.
6. D3 has acted for the RF in the Dutch proceedings since 2014. Although he withdrew from the record in May 2022, he continues, pursuant to a designation made by the Dean of the Amsterdam Bar on 27 June 2022 to act in his professional capacity as a lawyer to support the RF's present, designated, lawyer. He has also provided an expert report in the English enforcement proceedings.
100. The Claimants' claim fails.
101. The stakes are clearly very high between the parties in the wider dispute that has been to arbitration and is now before a number of Courts. That is a situation that puts everyone under pressure. But it is exactly the situation in which it is more important than ever that there is clearheaded respect between the legal professionals involved. I wish to be quite clear that there is no basis whatsoever for any challenge to or adverse criticism of the integrity, honesty or professionalism of any of the Defendants in these proceedings, both the individuals (D2 and D3) and the firm (D1).
102. All the Defendants (and the partner who has given evidence for D1 and has conduct for D1 and D2) are distinguished leaders, of international standing in their professions, and they are entitled to be treated as such. It is so important to keep this in plain sight because it is one of the things that underpins professional aspiration and standards, on which all parties and the Courts depend. It also helps underline how serious a matter is, and how ready a Court will be to act and act rigorously, when (in complete contrast to the present case) there is truly a ground for challenge or criticism. I greatly regret that at least at times the Claimants have lost sight of this.
Note: These proceedings were heard in private. This Judgment was originally handed down in private on 13 June 2023. After hearing the parties further on 21 September 2023 I decided that this Judgment should now be handed down in public, and without redaction.