Practice and Procedure


PUBLISHED November 27, 2003

The defendant was plainly vexatious and a civil proceedings order under s.42 Supreme Court Act 1981 would be made for a period of 12 years.Application by the Attorney-General ('the AG') for a civil proceedings order pursuant to s.42 Supreme Court Act 1981 against the defendant ('M'). The question for determination was whether M had instituted vexatious proceedings or made vexatious applications within proceedings such as to warrant the making of an order under s.42 of the Act. M had begun 31 actions since September 2000. The first group of litigation was against his local council's refusal to grant him a Hackney carriage licence during which M sued, amongst others, the magistrates, the council, the council's solicitors, the police, the Lord Chancellor and the Legal Services Commission (see R v Taunton County Court, ex parte Kevin Mahon (2001) EWHC Admin 1078). The second group of actions related to the termination of M's housing benefit and income support for which M sued the benefits agency, its staff, the council and the Department of Social Services. The last group of litigation was against M's neighbours ('R') for orders for access to their land, fraudulent conspiracy and forgery which finally resulted in an action against the Crown Prosecution Service and a senior Crown Prosecutor. All of M's claims were either struck out or stayed and, as M had no funds, costs could not be awarded against him. The AG relied on a police interview with M on 10 November 2002 after he had been arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice and incitement to commit criminal damage during which M admitted that none of his claims were justified and he brought the claims against R with the aim of causing them to suffer high costs in defending his actions.HELD: (1) It was not the task of the court on an application under s.42 to reconsider the merits of the underlying actions. The court was entitled to rely on the judge's conclusions in each case (Attorney General v Jones (1990) 1 WLR 859. (2) It was accepted that M was using the civil justice system as a means of harassing R. His aim was to cause them as much aggravation as possible to force them to move away. M was plainly vexatious. Whilst actions involving public authorities and their staff were vexatious enough, claims where individuals were subject to trouble, harassment and expense by the abuse of the legal system were of even greater concern. (3) The statutory criteria for making a s.42 order were clearly fulfilled and an order would be made for a period of 12 years. (4) (Obiter) On each occasion where a judge struck out or dismissed an action on the grounds that it was obviously devoid of merit, this should appear on the formal order drawn up by the court so that in the event of persistent litigation, the AG could rely on a number of court orders in s.42 proceedings to avoid having to exhibit voluminous evidence about the course of the different proceedings, as the AG had had to do in this case (see Bhamjee v Forsdick & Ors (2003) EWCA Civ 1113).Application granted.

[2003] EWHC 2435 (Admin)