On 1 December 2022 Fancourt J handed down judgment in this appeal brought by the bank against the decision of Chief ICCJ Briggs whereby he reversed Mr Lynch’s trustee in bankruptcy’s admission of the bank’s proof of a debt in excess of £1.2m arising under a guarantee dated September 2014 purporting to bear Mr Lynch’s signature. At the trial in February 2021 the Judge accepted Mr Lynch’s denial that he had ever seen, let alone signed, the guarantee which denial was supported by undisputed expert handwriting evidence that there was “strong evidence to support the proposition” that what purported to be Mr Lynch’s signature was a forgery. The bank argued that the contemporaneous documents provided a compelling inferential case that the guarantee had been presented to and signed by Mr Lynch. The Judge rejected that case. He found that Mr Lynch had not signed the guarantee and went on to say that the logical conclusion was that the forgery had been created at the bank.
The bank appealed on 6 grounds. The majority of those grounds were dismissed, but Fancourt J decided that on 2 bases the appeal should succeed. The first was that the Judge appeared not to have addressed one aspect of the expert evidence (which expressed complete confidence that the witness’ name and address had been written by her) which was capable of supporting the bank’s case that the guarantee had in fact been received at Mr Lynch’s business (and so was potentially signed by him or by somebody else at those premises). The second was that the Judge had not referred to the competing “inherent improbabilities” when deciding that the forgery had been made at the bank.
On these bases the appeal succeeded. As he was unable to say that had the trial Judge dealt with these matters, the outcome would have been different, a re-trial is to be directed. The precise form of that re-trial and whether it is to be before the same Judge will be decided on the basis of further submissions.
William McCormick KC and Oberon Kwok, instructed by Demetris Dionissiou of Axiom DWFM acted for Mr Lynch on the appeal