In an important decision which illustrated the extent to which English judges can aid foreign courts in the gathering of evidence, the High Court opened the way for a sample of blood taken from a deceased billionaire to be shipped to Russia.
The Georgian businessman was staying in a London hotel when he died following heart surgery. Samples of his blood and other tissues were retained in a university’s toxicology department at the behest of a coroner. His widow was engaged in an inheritance dispute in Russia with a woman who claimed to be his daughter. The latter’s paternity was the central issue in that litigation.
In those circumstances, the alleged daughter asked the Court to authorise release of a blood sample so that it could be sent to Moscow for DNA analysis. In granting that application, the Court found that it had power to make such an order under the Evidence (Proceedings in Other Jurisdictions) Act 1975. On the facts of the case, it had effectively received a request for assistance from the Russian court.
The widow cited religious grounds for her refusal to consent to DNA testing of the sample. However, the Court found that she had used consent as a bargaining chip in the ongoing negotiations over her husband’s estate. The woman had a right to know with certainty whether the businessman was her father and there was a risk that refusing to make the order sought would work a grave injustice.