Royal Courts of Justice


London WC2

Tuesday, 29th July 1997

B e f o r e:




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(Computer-aided Transcript of the Stenograph Notes of

Smith Bernal Reporting Limited, 180 Fleet Street,

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Official Shorthand Writers to the Court)

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The Applicant did not appear and was not represented.

MR R JAY (instructed by The Treasury Solicitors) appeared on behalf of the Respondent.


(As Approved)

Tuesday, 29th July 1997

LORD JUSTICE ROSE: In this matter the Attorney General, through the Solicitor General, seeks a civil proceedings order against John Dobson Campbell under section 42 of the Supreme Court Act 1981. That provides that such an order can be made after hearing the Respondent or giving him an opportunity of being heard, if the Court is satisfied that he has habitually, persistently and without any reasonable ground instituted vexatious civil proceedings or made vexatious applications in civil proceedings.

The first matter for consideration today was the Respondent’s application for an adjournment of this application. There is before the Court a document received by the Crown Office yesterday from the Respondent. That seeks, in the first instance, an adjournment of this matter. There is annexed to it a letter from his general practitioner, Doctor Jones, dated 14th July 1997 which says, that he has been asked by the respondent: “To provide medical comment in order to get adjournment of his court case”. Doctor Jones goes on to state that the Respondent suffers from a long-standing problem of anxiety and depression and is on treatment for this, although the treatment is not specified. He also suffers from transient ischaemic attacks which can cause temporary weakness in his arms and legs and are more likely to occur when he is under pressure. He also has a stomach complaint for which he is on medication.

Doctor Jones says that:

“...these things in combination do effect his ability to concentrate for long period of time, and I think, adjournment would be medically justified.”

This is not the first occasion that the Respondent has applied for these proceedings to be adjourned. It is not without significance that on 11th February 1997 when the Respondent did not attend and was not represented, a differently constituted division of the Divisional Court, presided over by the Lord Chief Justice, granted an interim order in relation to the matter which is now the subject of application.

On 22nd of May solicitors having placed themselves on the record, on 20th May, as having at that time started to act for the Respondent, the matter was adjourned on the application of counsel, because the solicitors had been unable to contact the Respondent since legal aid had been granted to him on 19th May and time was needed for those advising the Respondent to consider the merits of the matter.

On that occasion, there was before the Court a letter from the Respondent’s general practitioner dated April 1997 in which he expressed the view that he was:

“piggy in the middle” between his patient on the one hand, whose interests he wished to serve, and the Court on the other, whom the doctor felt might be responsible for some of his patient’s condition.

It does not appear that, as between April of this year and the time of Doctor Jones’s letter of 14th July, there has been any material change in the Respondent’s condition. In the light of these matters and the circumstances of this case, to which in a moment I shall come, the Court took the view that it was not appropriate to adjourn the hearing of this application further.

I should say that the solicitors who had been instructed on the Respondent’s behalf wrote to the court on 24th July indicating that they were no longer acting, and that the Respondent would be acting in person.

I turn to the merits of the application. I should say, at the outset, that I have read a number of documents from the Respondent which include an affidavit sworn on 7th February 1997, a second affidavit sworn on 16th the April 1997, a third affidavit sworn on 13th May 1997 and a skeleton argument prepared for the hearing on 22nd May and received by the Court on 21st May, in which, in submissions prepared by the Respondent himself, he indicated that unless the matter was adjourned he intended to commit suicide.

I have also seen a further document dated 13th May 1997 and a number of exhibits attached to that. The document received by the Court yesterday seeking, as I have indicated, in the first instance, an adjournment, goes on in the alternative to express a wish “to defend this on a point of law and objection in point of law.”

A number of claims are made in relation to the Respondent’s failure to receive natural justice. Allegations of conflict of interest and fraud are made by the Respondent. All of those matters I bear in mind.

The approach of the Court, when an application of the present kind is made, is that set out in the well-known judgment of Lord Parker, CJ, in Re Vernazza

[1959] 1 WLR 622 at 624. That is to say, the Court must look at the whole history of the matter, which is not determined by whether the pleadings disclose a cause of action. In the light of that approach, I turn to the other material before the Court which includes affidavits from Mr Akiwumi dated 17th January 1997 and 28th April 1997, and from Angela Mary Main Thompson dated 3rd February 1997.

In essence, the Respondent’s grievance, which he has sought to ventilate in 65 actions against the Department of Social Services since 1985 (33 of them brought during 1996), is that that Department has not paid him the benefits to which he is entitled and has wrongfully deducted sums which should not have been deducted from the payments to which he is entitled.

The character of the claims has varied from time to time and has included, for example, claims for alleged breaches of the Data Protection Act which are, of course, not justiciable in private law.

Insofar as the Respondent has legitimate claims against the Department, the appropriate course is for an appeal by him to the Social Security Appeal Tribunal in relation to such decisions as he wishes to complain about. Instead, he has, to the extent already indicated, sued the Department in the Workington and Carlisle County Courts. The outcome of those various claims has been mixed. In the first action, he was successful and he was awarded a sum in excess of £30.

The second action which claimed damages for negligence, damage to health, unlawful discrimination and malicious deception was consolidated with the third action, which made similar allegations and these two actions were discontinued on terms.

Actions 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 were all either struck out or dismissed. Action 9 was disposed of by consent and the plaintiff was paid a sum in excess of £100. Actions 10 to 18 inclusive, all of which claimed varying sums on a variety of bases, were compromised with a judgment in the Respondent’s favour on 21st February 1994. He was then paid in compromise of those actions the sum of £5,000. It may be that it was thought that such a compromise would satisfy the Respondent’s litigious inclinations and dissuade him from further activity. That hope was unfulfilled, because, within six months, he launched action number 19 and that, together with actions 20 and 21, and actions 25, 26, 27, 28 and 29 instituted up to and including May 1995, were all struck out.

Action 22 is still, on the face of it, ongoing. Action 23 was dismissed as an abuse of process, and action 24 which was a claim for nervous shock was stayed. Action 30 was adjourned generally. It was a claim for £6.60.

There was, on 22nd January 1997, an order made, following a history of vexatious applications and appeals within the ambit of those proceedings as set out in Angela Main Thompson’s affidavit, whereby an appeal in relation to costs was dismissed and, effectively, those proceedings have now been brought to an end.

Action 31 was withdrawn. Actions 33 and 37, which were also marked by a history of vexatious applications and appeals, have now been withdrawn. Actions 32, 34, 35, 36, 38 to 42, 44 to 46, 49, 51 to 54, 56, 57 and 61 to 64 are all ongoing. The claims advanced by the Respondent have now reached a level of some £3,000 per action. Without rehearsing the detail of the pleadings in those actions, they are plainly, as it seems to me, vexatious.

In action 47, the Respondent made interlocutory applications in October and twice in November 1996 which were vexatious, and he was required by the district judge to provide proper particulars of his case which, it appears, have not yet been provided.

Action 50, a claim for £3,000 for misfeasance, omission and breach of the Data Protection Act has been struck out. Prior to that, vexatious applications were made in those proceedings in October and November 1996.

Actions 59 and 60 have been struck out. Action 65 was also struck out in December 1996 and there is a further action which appears to be presently ongoing.

In my judgment, having looked at the material before the Court, there is no doubt at all that the Respondent has habitually, persistently and without any reasonable ground instituted vexatious civil proceedings and made vexatious applications in civil proceedings.

This is, in my judgment, a case where, that having occurred, the Court ought to make a Civil Proceedings Order under section 42 of the Supreme Court Act 1981.


LORD JUSTICE ROSE: The order will therefore be made.

MR JAY: I am obliged to your Lordships. There is no other application.

LORD JUSTICE ROSE: Thank you very much for your help,

Mr Jay.

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