Norwich Pharmacal order

A Norwich Pharmacal order, which takes its name from the case of Norwich Pharmacal Co. v Customs and Excise Commissioners [1974] A.C. 133, is an order for the disclosure of documents or information by the respondent to the applicant.

…if through no fault of his own a person gets mixed up in the tortious acts of others so as to facilitate their wrongdoing he may incur no personal liability but he comes under a duty to assist the person who has been wronged by giving him full information and disclosing the identity of the wrongdoers.

Norwich Pharmacal Co. v Customs and Excise Commissioners [1974] A.C. 133

Norwich Pharmacal relief is typically sought in the pre-action stages of a claim to identify appropriate defendants, locate relevant assets or to obtain information necessary to plead a claim. It is not generally available against a respondent who is likely to be a party to the potential proceedings.

The requirements for obtaining a Norwich Pharmacal order are as follows:-

  • There is no provision in the Civil Procedure Rules 1998 which would provide the appropriate relief;
  • There is strong arguable evidence that a wrong has been committed;
  • The respondent is likely to have relevant information or documents;
  • The respondent must be involved in the wrongdoing in a way which distinguishes them from being a ‘mere witness’;
  • The disclosure sought must be necessary to enable the applicant to assert their rights to bring legal proceedings against the ultimate wrongdoer or seek other legitimate redress for the wrongdoing; and
  • The applicant must provide a cross-undertaking in damages for any loss suffered as a result of the respondent’s compliance with the terms of the order if it is subsequently determined that the applicant was not entitled to the relief.

Norwich Pharmacal relief is a remedy of last resort. The court will only exercise its discretionary jurisdiction to make a Norwich Pharmacal order where it considers it just and proportionate to do so and where the information could not be obtained by some other means.