Royal Courts of Justice


London WC2

Friday, 2nd August 1996

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, London EC4A 2HD

Telephone No: 0171 831 3183 Fax: 0171 831 8838

Official Shorthand Writers to the Court)

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The Respondent appeared in person.

MR R SINGH (instructed by the Treasury Solicitor, London, SW1) appeared on behalf of the Respondent.

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(As Approved)

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Crown Copyright

Friday, 2nd August 1996


LORD JUSTICE SCHIEMANN: There is before us an application on behalf of the Attorney-General for an interlocutory injunction restraining the two respondents from engaging in conduct which would be prohibited were the Court to grant an all proceedings order under s.42 of the Supreme Court Act of 1981.

The application is one pending the substantive hearing of the application made by motion by the Attorney-General for the making of an all proceedings order. It is, we understand, likely that that application will be heard in October and so we are dealing with the interim period.

The basis of the application under s.42 is that it is contended by the Attorney-General that the two respondents have habitually and persistently without reasonable grounds instituted vexatious proceedings both criminal and civil.

The jurisdiction of this Court to make an order of this kind is now well-established, following the decision of this Court in re: Blackstone reported in 1995 Volume Crown Office Digest at page 105.

The substantive application cannot be heard before October because there will not be a Divisional Court available during the intervening period. The matter is thus for us one of discretion, weighing the potential harm to the respondents following the granting of such an interlocutory injunction against the harm to others flowing from the refusal to grant it.

Before us the respondents effectively have been represented by Mr Collins, his wife is not here, but I am sure he speaks for them both because they are both in the same situation and essentially they both have what I may call the same cause of complaint.

What they say, in substance, is that they have been very badly let down, in particular by their solicitor, in such a way that both they and a company in which either one or both of them were leading lights, has been made insolvent.

The background to the Attorney’s application is in part a familiar one in this type of case. There is a perfectly understandable feeling of grievance by the Collinses followed by a series of fruitless attempts to re-litigate the same matter.

This course of events is set out in the affidavit of Mr Bennett, a solicitor in the Attorney-General’s Department, sworn on 25th July 1996, in which he exhibits papers in a series of civil and criminal proceedings. A feature of those papers is that a number of proceedings have been started against the same defendants; relief against the allegedly fraudulent or negligent solicitor is sought in proceedings to which he has given the letters B, C, E, F, G, H, and M, relief against the Tipton and Coseley Building Society is sought in proceedings, letters D, E, J and L, relief against the Halifax Building Society is sought in proceedings lettered B, C, K and M.

There are in the papers several examples of applications of one sort or another by the Collinses being struck out and there are unpaid costs orders. The most recent civil proceedings which the Collinses have loss was an attempt, as chronicled under H, to set aside bankruptcy demands made by the solicitor.

Their appeal to Chadwick J was dismissed on 17th July 1996. The proceedings at M are listed to be heard in early August and those outstanding, another set of proceedings, listed to be heard, I think, on 13th September. So far as criminal proceedings are concerned, there are outstanding attempts to persuade Magistrates to issue summonses. Some are listed again for the vacation, I think, before the Dudley Magistrates. It appears from proceedings K that there are going to be further attempts to be made in WestBromwich to litigate.

The fact that there is a strong prima facie case for making an all proceedings order is, in my judgment, clear from the papers. I will not go through them all but take an example from the file at K.

There one sees that the Collinses want to lay information or have laid informations and ask the Justices at WestBromwich to issue various summonses. The informations allege offences such as the offence of contempt of statute, namely, conduct by words and deeds in contempt of the following, among other statutes, of the Realm and then a variety of the Solicitors Acts to the Building Societies Acts are set out, but the details of what is alleged is not there set out.

Indeed, there are contained alleged indictments both for dishonestly, obtaining property belonging to victims, and for a variety of other matters which are waiting to be heard. The way in which that has been presented undoubtedly presents difficulties. The Collinses may, I express no view on this matter at all, have a perfectly good cause of action against the solicitor or others if it were properly framed and properly directed. The difficulty is that the Collinses do not claim to be lawyers and, therefore, do not phrase things as a lawyer would and so confusion can arise. Undoubtedly whenever they have failed in one particular way they have fired off a salvo from a different direction, broadly speaking, at the same target.

What we are concerned with is whether we should make such an order as is sought pending the full investigation of these matters in October. As it seems to me, we ought to do that. I am concerned that Mr Collins should not be unduly disadvantaged by the making of that order and I do understand that there are pending before October a couple of proceedings in which he wishes to take a part. He must understand, and I think he does understand, that the order as such does not inhibit him from taking part or taking a particular step in any particular proceedings. What the order provides is that before doing that in any particular proceedings he must obtain the leave of the single judge. That single judge will be able to focus on those particular proceedings and Mr Collins will then be able to try and satisfy him that what he is seeking to do in those particular proceedings is a perfectly sensible thing for him to try and do. If he can do so then he will get leave to do just that.

Mr Collins makes the point, and it is a fair point, that it is a further hurdle for him to overcome in the circumstances where, as he maintains, and we cannot judge the validity of that, he has been let down by his solicitor. He says it would be a sad state of affairs if he finds himself made vexatious whilst his solicitor is struck off the Roll for misbehaviour, in broad terms, as a solicitor. That state of affairs can come about. I make no judgment about this particular solicitor, but it can come about because the fact that one has been badly advised by a solicitor or indeed a solicitor has behaved in a downright dishonest way, does not mean that one is automatically well placed to run litigation in a sensible way.

The purpose of an order such as the present is to focus the mind on particular proceedings and to see whether those proceedings have a chance of success. In my judgment, the right course is to make an order in the terms of the draft minutes of order which have been prepared for us by Mr Singh which effectively inhibits the taking of various steps. Then say that if the Collinses wish to seek leave from the High Court to do any of the things set out (effectively taking further steps in proceedings) they may do so by making an application to a judge sitting in chambers on two clear days notice to the Treasury Solicitor.

My only hesitation, as to which I would be quite happy to hear the parties, is in relation to the proceedings to be heard next week. I want to make quite sure that Mr Collins is not unduly inhibited by the 48 hours notice requirement from getting that case on the road if he wishes to do so, but subject to that, and subject to the agreement of my Lord, I would make the order sought.

MR JUSTICE SMEDLEY: Yes, I entirely agree with what my Lord has just said. I too have a certain concern about the hearing which is said to be on 7th August and indeed for that matter the hearing on 13th September, although it may well be that an application can be made before the judge in chambers well prior to 13th September so that Mr Collins can, with the leave, continue with that hearing, but 7th August does present a problem if he has to give two days notice bearing in mind this is 2nd August and a Friday.

MR SINGH: My Lord, I am grateful for your Lordship’s comments. On the specific matter of next week’s listed hearing, we, of course, understand the Court’s concern and Mr Collins’ concern. We have no detailed instructions about what those proceedings are going to exactly contain, but one approach might be to take the view that we today have notice.

LORD JUSTICE SCHIEMANN: I have not heard Mr Collins as to whether he intends to apply to the single judge. He may well do.

MR SINGH: We are inferring perhaps too much.

LORD JUSTICE SCHIEMANN: If he does, 7th is Wednesday, obviously in a way the sooner he does it the better from his point of view because then he can know whether he could go on or not. When do you foresee making such an application?

MR SINGH: It has to be made in these courts, my Lord. It cannot be before Monday.


MR SINGH: I would have thought at the very earliest it would be Tuesday and considering the number of parties that are coming to court on 7th to be examined it is rather short notice to expect representatives for the Halifax Building Society----

LORD JUSTICE SCHIEMANN: They are not required to be there unless the judge asks for them. The normal course is actually you just appear on one side in what we call an one-sided application. Exceptionally, in this case, we have asked that the Attorney-General be given the opportunity of instructing somebody, as it were, to put the other side’s case, but there will be no question of all the witnesses having to be served.

THE APPLICANT: My Lord, I was just thinking from the point of view that if leave was not granted to me on Tuesday it would be very difficult for me to contact the parties that were due to appear on Wednesday to say, “Hold it a second, I do not have leave of the Court to conduct the proceedings any further at this stage”, so I am a bit concerned about the time delay.

LORD JUSTICE SCHIEMANN: You have already served witness summonses on them?

THE APPLICANT: No, I have made a straightforward application supported by an affidavit requesting that certain parties appear before the Court to answer.

LORD JUSTICE SCHIEMANN: They will either do so or not. If they do not and you have leave to make those proceedings, that application will have to be decided by the Court which deals with that matter.

THE APPLICANT: My Lord, can I not request of this Court that by the cooperation of the solicitor for the Treasury that the matter on Wednesday proceed and that will be the final one with any transcripts arising therefrom being passed over to them. I am not seeking any relief for myself. I am seeking to get documents which will need to be discovered in any event when they make their rather substantive application in October.

LORD JUSTICE SCHIEMANN: Unless Mr Singh is content that leave should be granted in any particular form in relation to that matter, I do not think it would be appropriate for us to deal with it now.

MR SINGH: My Lord, the problem is that we simply do not have enough information about that application, certainly today, to be able to form a view one way or the other. I do want to take the sensible approach and move forward and, my Lord, what I would suggest if it is helpful, is that if Mr Collins can undertake that he would bring an application to this Court no later than Tuesday, in respect of the proceedings listed for Wednesday, then we would certainly not take any point about the two clear day’s notice. We would regard ourselves as having had the notice today of that.

LORD JUSTICE SCHIEMANN: I think that is as much as we can do. We are not in a position and it is not our task, as it were, to go into a particular problem, particularly if the other side is not ready to deal with it. I feel that is as much as we can do for you.

MR SINGH: Thank you, my Lords.

LORD JUSTICE SCHIEMANN: Perhaps I ought to hear Mr Collins on the extension. Mr Collins, apart from the particular matter which you are concerned with next Tuesday, there will be a hearing in October when it will be considered whether or not the order should be made a permanent as opposed to the temporary one. In those proceedings the Attorney-General is going to rely on the affidavit by Mr Bennett and his two exhibits which you have seen. You do have the right to put in affidavit in reply setting out your side of the case and exhibiting any particular documents you want to exhibit. Normally you would have 56 days in which to produce that affidavit. On the other hand, you are no doubt keen that the hearing should be as soon as possible so that you can get shot of this order, if you can. The Attorney-General suggests that you put your affidavit in within 25 days. That is just over a month. Is that reasonable time?

THE APPLICANT: That is not a request that I am not going to be able to comply with. I will be able to comply with it. The difficulty I am having, and I am being restrained by the Attorney-General’s application, is to provide or to obtain documents which I know exist that are in the hands of others and I am afraid I am going to go round in a circle being accused of being vexatious. I know there are documents available which certain parties, namely, solicitors which have represented my wife and I and our companies, have in their files, and they have refused them to release to the Court even under Court order.

LORD JUSTICE SCHIEMANN: If they are in breach of a Court order then principally they are liable to imprisonment, putting it at its highest.

THE APPLICANT: This is something I will have to raise with the Court in due course. They got involved in some very nice procedural footwork before the Master not to make an order to that effect. They submitted to the Master that I should not have put the case in the first instance, but that did not stop them from failing to comply with the order that he made 12 months previously and despite written requests, and that I know telephones calls were provided.

LORD JUSTICE SCHIEMANN: I am sorry if I sound unhelpful but we are not in a position to sort that particular problem out. We will make the order in the terms sought.

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