Skip to content

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

  • by

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

Before the trial began Mr Justice Laddie notified my solicitors that he was a participant in the Shell SMART multi retail partner loyalty card scheme. The promotional concept that happened to be the subject of the litigation. I advised that this was not a problem. It was the only Shell connection that he declared.

Condemned our campaigning activities

On the first morning of the trial, out of the blue, Mr Justice Laddie made comments signalling that our campaigning activity against Shell was already at the forefront of his mind. 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 “ethical statement that had been made on behalf of Shell” referred to in the same exchange was presumably a reference to Shell’s Statement of General Business Principles.

The following is an extract from page 17 of Shell’s Counterclaim:

“Can the Directors of Shell UK be trusted to uphold the code-of-ethics published by the Royal Dutch Shell Group? Based on our experience the answer is no. Shell’s Statement of General Business Principles appears to be nothing more than a PR inspired, confidence trick. Mere sleight-of-hand. A sham.”

The judge did not suggest that our campaigning 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.

The relevant early exchanges in open court can be read immediately below.

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.

Strangely, 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 at the conclusion of the trial 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 potentially put the settlement 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 warning 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.

I did know from my solicitor Richard Woodman that there was some heated discussion between the Judge and Geoffrey Cox on that last day in court, but until Mr Wiseman mentioned that he had a copy of a transcript of the “Judges Comments”, I was not aware of their existence. 

Since the case had been resolved in a “compromise settlement” the Judge was not required to deliver a verdict but insisted on making comments about me, even though I was not there.

If I had been present and had listened to his allegations and ranting I would probably have said something that would have ended up with me being held in contempt of court.

If he had delivered a verdict in Shell’s favour, I would have been legally entitled to ask for leave to appeal. There is apparently no right to do so in respect of “Judges Comments”. That is plainly wrong.

By the time of making his Judges Comments, Mr Justice Laddie had apparently decided that the accusations were not all tosh as he had once described them. The Judge said he was considering calling in the Director of Public Prosecutions because he thought that the allegations about me made in court by Shell’s QC (later withdrawn by Shell) had more than passing strength to them.

He also said that AJL “worked hard for his employer and put its commercial interests before the interests of outside firms.”

This seems to be a reference to AJL’s Machiavellian “Keep Rejects Holding” plan found in discovery documents. An outright conspiracy, led by AJL, to scam a group of outside firms into investing more time and disclosing more proprietary information to Shell, in the false expectation, deliberately dangled by AJL, that they were still in the running for a Shell Smart contact. The scheme was totally unethical, possibly illegal and completely at odds with Shell’s claimed business principles.

Why would the Judge praise AJL for such dishonest conduct in its dealings with outside firms?

As can be seen from the transcript, there was a heated exchange between the Judge and my lead barrister, Geoffrey Cox, who happened to be a criminal law specialist. It is clear from the explosive exchange recorded in the court transcript that the Judge was blatantly biased against me.

According to Geoffrey Cox, the row over the Judges Comments continued in the Judge’s chambers. This is when the Judge found out that he had been badly misled.


Shell had withheld the true terms of settlement from Mr Justice Laddie. This is confirmed in an email sent to me by Richard Wiseman on 17 June 2008 – part of a related string of emails providing details of the overall background circumstances. I did not know that the settlement terms disclosed to the Judge were incomplete and therefore deceptive. Hence the instructions to deceive the judge MUST have come on the instruction of Shell. 

When discussing the settlement terms with the Judge, Geoffrey Hobbs QC is on record in the transcript as saying: “…your Lordship has seen the paperwork.” It turns out that this was untrue. Part of the paperwork was secretly withheld.

At the time of making his injudicious comments, the Judge was totally unaware that Shell had paid my legal fees and that I had received a secret payment. He probably thought I had surrendered when in fact it was the other way round. I would not agree to settle without a substantial payment.

He did see the DEED OF COMPROMISE and its annexe’s 1, 2 and 3, two of which were Orders and the third item a press release. Both Orders indicated that there was no order “as to costs.” The document kept secret from the Judge contained the following clause: The parties undertake to keep this Deed and the contents (including the fact of a payment being made) confidential to the parties and their professional advisors save that disclosure may take place under compulsion of law.” 

Shell paid my legal costs and I received a settlement payment. A totally different outcome than was indicated to the Judge, who had already admitted, as recorded in the previous chapter, that he had lost control of the trial. 


The Judge was also unaware when making his biased comments of a material omission by Shell, which seriously undermined the trial. Richard Wiseman, the Legal Director of Shell responsible for the litigation and who attended court almost every day of the trial and was responsible for the Counterclaim Shell brought against us, had not disclosed crucial evidence relating to the Counterclaim.

The “PARTICULARS” section of the Counterclaim listed information published by us as part of our campaigning activities. Shell provided examples to the Judge.

However, Shell withheld from the Judge important items of evidence proving that Shell had published material attacking us.

Firstly a so-called “factsheet” was published and circulated to Shell staff in November 1998 by “Shell U.K. Limited Public Affairs UKCM and Legal UKLG” under the headline:  “DON MARKETING: THE FACTS.” The text alleged that I had acted dishonourably. As can be seen via the link, a substantial part of the factsheet supplied to me by Shell years later in response to a Subject Access Request (SAR) under the UK Data Protection Act, was redacted by Shell. It may well have contained further defamatory comments falsely presented as fact.

Secondly, a magazine article penned by Richard Wiseman (in his capacity as Legal Director of Shell) was, unbeknown to us, published in a Shell magazine in November 1998.

These vital items of evidence were not disclosed to me by Shell in the Counterclaim proceedings. This was a breach of discovery rules. Neither appears in the list of evidence.

This non-disclosure was important in the context of the comments made by Mr Justice Laddie, which made it clear he had taken exception to the aforementioned letter I sent to Marketing Week magazine that the editor decided to publish on 25 February 1999.

My letter was brief, taking up less than 20% of a magazine page, and was not defamatory. If it had been, Marketing Week would never have published it. In comparison, the whole page article by Richard Wiseman in a Shell magazine was devoted exclusively to me and the content was undoubtedly defamatory, accusing me of being dishonourable and of smearing AJL. It was published months before my letter to the Editor of Marketing Week.

Under the circumstances, it is easy to understand why Shell did not disclose the existence of the article authored by their Legal Director as they were legally obliged to do.

The non-disclosure by Shell of the most important element in the settlement terms (who paid who) and the withholding by Shell of absolutely crucial evidence, misled the Judge by creating a completely erroneous picture of the true circumstances. 

It is worth bearing in mind the following observation attributed to Sir John Donaldson:

“Litigation is not a war or even a game. It is designed to do real justice between opposing parties and, if the court does not have all the relevant information [emphasis added], it cannot achieve this object” (Davies v Eli Lilly & Co [1987] 1 All ER 801). See “All cards on the table” – the litigant’s duty of disclosure and inspection.”

For reasons that I will explain, I agreed to an unsatisfactory outcome, including a so-called joint press statement announcing a stalemate outcome, the content of which was deliberately contrived by Shell to deceive the media.

There were a number of articles published about the outcome, all based on the false information in the press release designed to portray Shell in a favourable light. As per previous settlements with Shell, nothing was what it seemed.

East Anglian Daily Times article 7 July 1999: “Stalemate for marketing firm’s ‘stolen’ idea claim

Marketing Week article 8 July 1999: “Don ends legal proceedings against Shell UK

Bury Free Press article 9 July 1999: “Shell claim is settled

Marketing Magazine article 28 July 1999: “Shell has settled out of court with John Donovan

Debrief newsletter published July 1999: “SHELL IN HIGH COURT SUIT OVER SMARTCARD SCHEME

Forecourt Trader article August 1999: “Shell action abandoned

Incentive Today July/August 1999: “Don and Shell end Smart row” (the article suggests the settlement may have cleared the way for a Shell-Texaco merger).

Like the judge, the news media were also deceived about the outcome.


The Moody-Stuart family?

Mark Moody-Stuart was at the relevant time Group Chairman of the Royal Dutch Shell Group. He and his wife Judy had become personally involved in the litigation.

The name of Mark Moody-Stuart appears many times in the transcript of the trial.

My father had received a heartfelt handwritten letter from the wife of Sir Mark a few months before the trial, followed up by a kind handwritten note just before the trial commenced. The note was in response to my father’s equally heartfelt reply to her original letter. 

During the opening days of the trial, Shell’s solicitors put a settlement offer to my father. They said it was their intention to bring the offer to the attention of the court. On 28 June 1999, my father responded asking that his response, which included a copy of his reply letter to Judy Moody-Stuart, also be provided to the court.

Despite the prominence of the Moody-Stuart name in the trial, the judge did not disclose that he personally knew Tom Moody-Stuart, the barrister son of Mark and Judy. They both belonged to the same law chambers. 

I was informed that Mark Moody-Stuart had personally approved the settlement. The full set of settlement documents may have also been withheld from him and his senior management colleagues, just as they were from the Judge. My solicitors represented me in the negotiations. I only know what I insisted upon as a last-ditch negotiating position, what I was told in response, what was set out in writing, and what I received into my bank account.

I agreed to the compromise settlement purely because of the immense pressure put on me as a result of Shell’s machinations, with the dire possibility of Shell ending up as my main creditor. It was the second or third “peace treaty” settlement offer made by Shell during the trial. It came when the cross-examination of AJL was in progress and about to reach a climax.

In November 2002, we wrote to the Judge via his Clerk, Mr Peter Smith, concerning a possible conflict of interest in respect of his connection with Tom Moody-Stuart, but as can be seen in the email correspondence, the judge refused to enter into correspondence or comment on the matter.

Related extracts from a faxed letter I sent to Sir Mark Moody-Stuart on 7 June 2004

5. Your wife, Lady Judy Moody-Stuart, subsequently personally intervened in the SMART dispute without your knowledge or consent by writing directly to me. I engaged in correspondence with her which was supplied to the Trial Judge, Mr Justice Laddie, via Shell’s solicitors, DJ Freeman. 

6. In November 2002 you requested on behalf of your barrister son, Mr Tom Moody-Stuart, a copy of a manuscript I had written which included references to you, your wife, and your son (and his connection via the Law Chambers at 8 New Square with the trial Judge, Mr Justice Laddie). I have no reason to believe that your son is anything other than a man of the very highest integrity. I have only asked legitimate questions about any professional connection between him and the Judge at that time. If they did know each other, the Judge should have recused himself from hearing the trial.     

His long time friend, Mr Tony Willoughby

After his sudden resignation as a judge, Sir Hugh Laddie QC joined an IP firm founded by his friend of 35 years, Tony Willoughby. Willoughby & Partners AKA Rouse & Co. Shell was a long-term client.

This is a link to a press statement dated 22 June 2005 downloaded from the Rouse website on 5 March 2006 announcing that Sir Hugh Laddie had left the Hign Court to join Willoughby & Partners/Rouse Legal.

This is a link to a “client and cases” webpage downloaded from the Rouse website on 26 July 2005 listing Shell as a client.

The Judge ended up working for a firm that had Shell as a client.

When I sent an email on 24 November 2008 to Richard Wiseman, in his then capacity as the Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer of Royal Dutch Shell plc, Shell was still listed on the Rouse International website as a client with Sir Hugh Laddie and Tony Willougby, both listed as consultants. 

The following is an extract from the same email string.

It was sent to Mr Wiseman by John Donovan.

You have, of course, also had a commercial relationship with Laddie. Professor Sir Hugh Laddie QC as he is now known, works as a consultant to an IP law firm founded by a long-term friend, Tony Willoughby of Willoughby & Partners… who had Shell as a client at the time of the trial (and still boasts of having Shell as a client).

Mr Wiseman was Chairman of a law conference in which Professor Sir Hugh Laddie QC was one of his invited speakers.

Extracts from

Laddie move prompts ban review: “Justice Laddie’s decision to become a consultant causes controversy”

Friends of Mr Justice Laddie, the convivial senior judge of the Patents Court, had been sensing for some time that he was not his usual self.

“…he was to join international IP consultancy Rouse & Co and its associated UK firm Willoughby & Partners as a consultant.

“Laddie’s friendship with Willoughby stretches back to 1973…”

“Laddie’s move has also been linked to sustained controversy…”

“At any other time, one suspects that Mr Justice Laddie’s decision to quit the High Court and join his old chums at Willoughby & Partners

Extracts from an article published by

Mr Justice Laddie has always aroused passions. One particularly bitter IP solicitor recently penned an open letter to Laddie’s successor, Mr Justice Kitchin, which is a thinly veiled attack on the former judge.

Laddie’s final defining controversy came in June. He became the first judge to resign from the bench in 35 years. To make matters worse, he announced that he was joining IP consultancy Rouse & Co, to be based with the firm’s UK legal arm Willoughby & Partners.

Unsurprisingly, Laddie has little truck with this line of argument. “We decided that we were against slavery quite some time ago,” he says. “The theory that judges have to work on as judges is ridiculous. If you don’t enjoy a job, or you don’t think you’re doing it very well, you just leave.

But why did he resign? The common theory is that he was bored. This is mainly because one national newspaper chose to wrongly quote him as being bored in a headline. 

It is the Laddie that became unpopular with many IP lawyers who felt harshly judged in his court. However, on paper the rant seems worse than it is. Laddie is very measured, gentle even. And his rants are driven by a passionate belief that a legal system should treat clients fairly.

His name was just about to be put forward to a number of international law firms when he spoke to Willoughbys founding partner Tony Willoughby, a friend of 35 years’ standing.

f there’s any honour – and there is an honour in being made a judge – it’s the honour of being made a judge. No other mark is necessary. If they wanted to take the title away, it wouldn’t worry me at all,” says Laddie, outspoken to the end.

And so he begins his new life. No longer Mr Justice Laddie. Just Hugh Laddie, consultant, Rouse & Co.


How likely is it that Laddie did not discuss the Shell case with his good friend Tony Willoughby, who had Shell as a client?


In May and June 2004 we undertook several initiatives.

On 20 May 2004, we wrote a letter to Lord Falconer, the Lord Chancellor outlining events and requesting an investigation. We were informed in a reply that his department could not comment on individual judicial cases and suggested we should seek legal advice. We published the correspondence and a related sworn affidavit on the Internet.

On 26/27 June we sent emails to every UK MP on the subject of “HAKLUYT – THE COMMERCIAL ARM OF MI6.”

We provided a link to our letter to Lord Falconer complaining about the conduct of Mr Justice Laddie.

The judge was not interested in the Shell sponsored cloak and dagger activity. Some Members of Parliament were.

We received many responses including one from the Intelligence & Security Committee on behalf of Rt. Hon Ann Taylor MP advising: “the contents of your email have been noted and will be drawn to the attention of the other Committee members.”

We were also in correspondence with the then PM Tony Blair MP via 10 Downing Street.

On 2 June 2004, we faxed a letter to Christopher James, a former SAS/MI6 officer and co-founder of the corporate espionage company Hakluyt & Company asking if Hakluyt had been involved in Shell’s spying activities against us.

Bizarrely, we received a response from a lawyer at The Church of England, Mr Mike Webster, who discovered our letter on a fax machine in their legal department.

This is the astonishing email correspondence on 6 July 2004, which contains a reference to a related telephone conversation between Mr Webster and me. He thought our letter had been faxed to the Church of England in error.

It turned out that the then *head lawyer at The Church of England, *Sir Anthony Hammond KCB QC was a director, shareholder and legal counsel at Hakluyt. He had been asked to draft a reply to our letter. The matter was obviously deemed of sufficient importance to require his lawyer skills. Why would that be the case if Hakluyt had no involvement? 

We naturally brought this astonishing development to the attention of the head of the Church of England, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. See our letter dated 7 June 2004.

We supplied copies of related correspondence including the letter to the then Lord Chancellor complaining about Mr Justice Laddie. Buckingham Palace replied on behalf of Her Majesty stating that we were “quite correct to write to the Archbishop of Canterbury and to Lord Falconer.”

We received an acknowledgement letter on behalf of the Archbishop of Canterbury on 22 June 2004.

*Sir Anthony Hammond was  Standing Counsel to the General Synod of the Church of England. By coincidence or otherwise, after his association with Hakluyt was prominently exposed, Sir Anthony ceased being the legal counsel of Hakluyt & Company. 

On 13 January 2005, we circulated a further email to MP’s, once again raising the subject of Mr Justice Laddie and his conduct.

Our emails to MP’s, correspondence with the Intelligence & Security Committee, Church of England, Buckingham Palace, Canterbury Palace, and 10 Downing Street, were all published on the Internet.

Thus, Mr Justice Laddie was well aware of our views and was placed in a very difficult position, with his credibility and reputation being publicly called into question and at the highest levels of the state. The various correspondence on the subject ended on 21 April 2005.

By coincidence or otherwise, just eight weeks later, Mr Justice Laddie resigned as a Judge in mysterious controversial circumstances (June 2005).

(Within weeks of his resignation, Shell used his Judges Comments in WIPO proceedings Shell brought against my father. The reference was made in an attempt to denigrate us – a further violation of the so-called peace treaty if it had still been in force. Shell lost the WIPO case.)

Doubts were raised about the reason the judge gave for his resignation (boredom), which caused a sensation in legal circles. See the obituary published 3 December 2008 by the Telegraph.

John Walsh, a writer for The Independent newspaper asked, What is one to make of the behaviour of Sir Hugh Laddie, better known as Mr Justice Laddie…”

Mr Justice Laddie was the first High Court Judge to resign for 35 years. He certainly seemed to have something on his mind.

Tragically he passed away in 2008 as a result of cancer. It was clear from tributes made at the time that he was a much liked and widely respected Judge.

As for Tony Blair, his apparent intervention came to nought. Unbeknown to me, at the time we were in contact with his office, Blair was lobbying Libyan dictator Gaddafi on behalf of Shell.

The oil giant even drafted a letter for Blair to send to Gaddafi.

Extract from the relevant Daily Mail article:

Lobbying: Shell is said to have dictated what Tony Blair said to Colonel Gaddafi in order to seal a £325million deal with Libya.

Extract from a related article in The Times by David Robertson published 27 April 2010:

While it is common for government ministers to champion British interests abroad, Shell’s draft reveals an unusual assurance in its ability to dictate Mr Blair’s conversation with the Libyan leader. It also raises questions about the motives behind Britain’s improved relations with Libya and the subsequent release of Abdul Baset Ali Al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber. Lockerbie victims have claimed that the Government paved the way for al-Megrahi’s release as part of a deal with Libya to give British companies access to Libya’s lucrative oil and gas industry.

Tony Blair, titled Shell directors, High Court Judges and the like are all fully paid-up members of the UK establishment. An elite club of which we have never been members.

My guess, from his condemnation of our unconventional campaigning tactics, is that Mr Justice Laddie regarded us as upstart outsiders who did not play by the unwritten rules of the old boy network.

If that was his view, it was correct.

My solicitor, Richard Woodman, did warn me at an early stage in the litigation that a Judge might frown on our campaigning as showing a lack of decorum. His warning proved well-founded.

I was not, however, prepared to sit back and leave it all to the lawyers bearing in mind the mounting horrendous costs involved. 

That would have suited Shell, who would have dragged out proceedings even longer than they did.

I provided encouragement for the litigation to proceed without the delay which would have otherwise put Shell at a further advantage.

An article published by The Observer on 18 August 2018, provides an example of a Judge stepping aside to avoid any perceived conflict of interest, as Professor Laddie should have done.


I incurred the wrath of the judge for doing what I was legally entitled to do.

The degree of his displeasure did not become clear until the end of the trial when he erupted.

I have no doubt that he was a decent man of high integrity with immense knowledge and expertise, fully deserving of the tributes by family, friends and colleagues.

Having acknowledged all of that, if I had known that the trial would be held by a judge with a bias against entirely legal campaigning activity and disturbing undisclosed Shell connections, I would not have bet my house on a fair trial.

There is not just the consideration of outright bias, but unconscious bias.

Extract covering some of the same events from a related article… Donovan Libel Actions Against Shell


The John Donovan libel action against Shell was withdrawn as part of a settlement of the SMART litigation contained in a deed of compromise dated 5 July 1999. Annexes 1, 2 and 3 includes a so-called joint press statement that was actually issued by Shell. The Deed of Compromise dealt with the abandonment of all claims. There was no mention of any payment being made by Shell.

Substantial settlement payments were however set out and sent to the solicitors acting for me as provided in a separate DEED of the same date, 5 July 1999.

The DEED contained this provision.

“The parties undertake to keep this Deed and the contents (including the fact of a payment being made) confidential to the parties and their professional advisors save that disclosure may take place under compulsion of law.”

Shell withheld the DEED in its entirety from the Judge Mr Justice Laddie. He had been deliberately completely misled about the outcome of the trial.

Therefore, when he made his Judges Comments in open court the following day, he was unaware that Shell had settled the case, paying ALL legal costs nor did he know that I would receive payment.

Fortunately, during the exchanges between the judge and my lawyer Geoffrey Cox captured in the Judges Comments, the precise documents handed over to the judge were mentioned.

AS a result, a false impression was conveyed by Shell when it withheld the key settlement document from the Judge.

It appeared that I had surrendered.

I have a communication from a senior Shell lawyer confirming that the relevant settlement document was withheld from the Judge.

This false impression was reinforced by a press statement released by Shell deliberately misleading the news media, the public and Shell shareholders. I agreed to the content of the press statement under duress from the bombardment of threats and sinister events.

The closing days of the trial were marked by an outright deception allowed by the Judge and ended in his heated exchange with my lead counsel Mr Geoffrey Cox. The Judge admitted that he had lost control of the trial.

Geoffrey Cox QC MP later became the UK Attorney General famous for his Brexit related declaration in the House of Commons that “This is a dead parliament.”

By coincidence or otherwise, soon after we wrote to every UK MP in January 2005 raising questions about the independence and impartiality of the Judge, he resigned (in June 2005) in controversial circumstances. 

Extract from a Telegraph article headlined:

‘Bored High Court judge resigns:

Mr Justice Laddie, 59, is thought to be the first judge to resign voluntarily from the High Court for 35 years and is the first to join a solicitors’ firm.

The solicitors firm was founded by a lifetime friend. Shell was a client.

He was a distinguished speaker in an informa law “In-house Counsel 2006” conference chaired by Shell’s legal director, Richard Wiseman, who had attended court on a daily basis. and its sister non-profit websites,,,,,, and are owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia feature.