Nigel Davis

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Sir Nigel Davis is a High Court judge and the brother of Crispin Davis.

MMR litigation

In June 2007, a group claim by parents against vaccine manufacturers for damages on behalf of children allegedly damaged by the MMR vaccination collapsed when legal aid was withdrawn. The litigation, which at one time peaked with 2,500 children in the group, had been in progress for several years.[1]

A high court judge, Justice Keith, ruled that all but two claims against various pharmaceutical companies must be discontinued, under threat of being struck out, because the withdrawal of legal aid by the Legal Services Commission had made their pursuit impossible. But the judge said his ruling did not amount to a rejection of any of the claims that MMR had seriously damaged the children concerned.[2]

The collapse of all the other cases because they had no public funding came a month after the FOIA Centre revealed that another high court judge who had blocked legal aid in 2004 had a brother who sits on the board of a drugs company embroiled in the litigation. The ruling by Sir Nigel Davis – whose brother, Sir Crispin Davis, is a non-executive director of GlaxoSmithKline[3] – to dismiss the attempt to restore legal aid left many families without lawyers to represent them.[4]

Some of the parents involved in the litigation complained to the Office for Judicial Complaints (OJC) about the conflict of interest. Private Eye reported on the verdict of the OJC on the complaint:

MMR LEGAL AID: Mr Justice Davis has been cleared of any wrongdoing for not disclosing that his brother was a director of Glaxo SmithKline when he sanctioned the withdrawal of legal aid from families who claim their children were damaged by the drug company's MMR vaccine.
The Office for Judicial Complaints (OJC) has advised more than 100 parents who complained of the conflict of interest that the high court judge states categorically that he was not aware at the time that his brother, Sir Crispin davis, was a non-executive director of GSK, one of three defendant drug companies in the MMR controversy.
But when the Eye and others asked his office about a potential conflict five months ago, a statement was issued on his behalf which said: "In 2003, Mr Justice Davis's brother was appointed as a non-executive director of GSK. At the date of the hearing before Mr Justice (February 2004), the possibility of any conflict of interest arising from his brother's position was not raised with him and did not occur to him. If he was wrong, any possible remedy must be sought in the court of appeal."
This is not quite the same as saying he knew nothing about it. The parents are now asking Sir John Brigstocke, the judicial ombudsman, to investigate this apparent inconsistency. They are also asking whether the OJC were right to dismiss a second complaint of a possible conflict. Sir Crispin is also Chief Executive of Reed Elsevier, publishers of The Lancet. Although the magazine published the original controversial research by Dr Andrew Wakefield and others at the Royal Free Hospital, its editor Richard Horton had been widely quoted just before the legal aid hearing saying the study was flawed because of an alleged conflict of interest.[5]


  1. MMR group legal claim collapses in high court, FOIA Centre, 08/06/07, acc 26 May 2010
  2. MMR group legal claim collapses in high court, FOIA Centre, 08/06/07, acc 26 May 2010
  3. Board of Directors, GSK website, acc 26 May 2010
  4. MMR group legal claim collapses in high court, FOIA Centre, 08/06/07, acc 26 May 2010
  5. MMR Legal Aid, Private Eye No 1196 26 October-8 November 2007, acc 26 May 2010