Geoffrey Hobbs QC

CHAPTER 5: Shell corporate espionage in the run-up to the Smart trial

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This page last updated 26 August 2021.

Titled Shell directors, the late Sir Peter Holmes, and Sir William Purves were also directors, major shareholders and the spymasters of Hakluyt & Company, a UK corporate espionage firm founded by former senior MI6 officers. Shell used Hakluyt to engage in cloak and dagger operations against its perceived enemies, including Greenpeace, as exposed in a Sunday Times front-page lead article “MI6 ‘firm’ spied on green groups.” It led to a follow-on inside page headlined “How agent Camus sunk Greenpeace oil protests”. 

When Shell first instigated a cloak and dagger operation against us, we had no knowledge of the oil giants long-time involvement in the dark arts.

I first mentioned the subject of investigative activity in a letter dated 15 June 1998 that I sent to Dr Chris Fay, the then Chairman & Chief Executive of Shell UK Limited. It was also copied to Shell lawyers.

From paragraph 4 of page 3:

“Shell did retain an investigative specialist in connection with the previous litigation. They made investigations about me going back over a decade.” read more and its sister websites,,,,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article:

CHAPTER 6: Shell Smart Trial at The Royal Courts of Justice

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We suspended our website before the Smart trial commenced in June 1999.

Screenshot from the Wayback Machine web archive for website: 12 March 2000

The trial actually commenced on 15th June 1999 in Court 58 on the 7th Floor of the modern air-conditioned Thomas More Building at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

HIGH COURT TRIAL JUNE/JULY 1999 Case No: DD04199 Court 58 John Alfred Donovan v. Shell UK Ltd

At the start of the trial the Judge, Mr Justice Laddie QC commented that it was one of the most unpleasant cases that had ever come before him, with both sides making extremely serious allegations against each other.

Personal Intervention of Judy Moody-Stuart

Days before the Smart trial commenced, a magazine published an article containing a reference to an extraordinary personal intervention by Judy Moody-Stuart, the Quaker wife of the Shell Chairman, Mark Moody-Stuart. (Now Sir Mark & Lady Judy Moody-Stuart).


The latest part of the claim has seen Donovan set up a website attacking Shell, he has also picketed the Shell Centre at Waterloo and disrupted the oil giant’s 100th Anniversary AGM. The latest bizarre development in the case is an intervention in the form of a letter from the wife of Mark Moody-Stuart, the head of Shell International. In her letter to Donovan, Judy Moody-Stuart pleads with Donovan to stop attacking her husband saying ‘I’ve had enough of reading your miserable destructive comments about a great group of people, Shell people, and their organisation’. She then urges Donovan to spend his time working for the charity Centrepoint before wishing him ‘good luck in coming to terms with the world.’ read more and its sister websites,,,,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article:

CHAPTER 7: A biased High Court Judge who later resigned in controversial circumstances

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Regretfully, it became evident that the controversial Judge, the late Mr Justice Laddie (above) was not impartial. He strongly objected to our “high-profile campaign” against Shell and failed to disclose his connections with Shell. 

Condemned our campaigning activities

On the first morning of the trial, out of the blue, the judge made comments signalling that he was aware of our campaigning activity against Shell. He brought up the subject by saying to my barrister Geoffrey Cox: “I know at one stage your client was a moving force behind the body which was protesting at Shell’s allegedly improper business practices.”

This was a reference to the Shell Corporate Conscience Pressure Group set up by my father and me which hundreds of Shell UK retailers and suppliers joined. The relevant exchanges in open court can be read immediately below. Our campaigning which he deemed improper was at the back of his mind right from the start.

He must have read the discovery information and noted the relevant allegations before the trial had even begun. 

The judge did not suggest that such activities were illegal but as will become clear, he did frown on them, to put it mildly.

Given his strong feelings on the subject, he should have stepped down and not allowed his negative first impression to fester. 

His comments were Innocuous at first sight, but when considered in conjunction with his later recital at the end of the trial of a letter I had sent to Marketing Week magazine, it was plain that he was appalled from the outset by my campaigning activities against Shell. The letter in question was published by Marketing Week magazine on 25 February 1999. The judge condemned my letter and made clear his strong objections to my “high profile campaign,” listing my activities in this regard, including operating websites. He said not a single word about Shell’s use of undercover activity mentioned in the same letter. Shell’s covert activities were ignored, my perfectly lawful campaigning castigating Shell for not abiding by its own claimed business principles was viewed by him as beyond the pale.  See the section entitled SHELL BUSINESS PRINCIPLES at the foot of this webpage.  The incendiary remarks were made by Mr Justice Laddie in the so-called “Judges Comments” – comments made by him when he was supposedly going to “rubber stamp” a settlement agreed between the parties. His rant about my campaigning put the settlement potentially at risk and showed just how worked up he was on a subject that had grabbed his attention from the outset.   

His related comments on day one were an early signal.  He had apparently formed a smouldering bias against me on those grounds from the kick-off.

I was told that it was not necessary to attend court in relation to the settlement since it was just a formality. Hence, I was not there to hear what the judge said and only obtained a transcript of his comments years later after Shell director Richard Wiseman brought them to my attention. read more and its sister websites,,,,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article: