Royal Courts of Justice


London WC2

Friday, 6th October 2000

B e f o r e:





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ex parte



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MR. A. TOLLEY (Instructed by the Treasury Solicitor) appeared on behalf of the Applicant.

THE RESPONDENT appeared in Person and was not represented.

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(As approved)


1. LORD JUSTICE BUXTON: This is an application by Her Majesty’s Attorney-General under section 42 of the Supreme Court Act for an all civil proceedings order under that section against the respondent, Mr. Covey. There are various preliminary matters that we must deal with before we come to the substance of the case.2. When the case opened Mr. Covey asked for an adjournment so that he could seek legal aid. It became apparent from a letter that he showed us that he had approached the Legal Aid Board in 1999 and had been refused. It was not apparent that any step to renew had been taken since then, not even when he was served with these proceedings. We refused that application.

3. On the first day of the hearing, after the short adjournment and when the case had already proceeded for over two hours and Mr. Covey had already started his submissions to us, he renewed the application that he had made for an adjournment in relation to seeking legal aid on the basis that, with the coming into force of the Human Rights Act, an application for legal aid would be more likely to succeed. We adhered to our previous decision.

4. Also at that time he asked for an adjournment so that a set of papers could be copied for him to use in the course of addressing us. The papers in question were those with which he had been served, but he had not brought his bundle to court. He told us that his state of health prevented him from carrying a load of that weight to court. No previous indication had been given to us or to the court of that difficulty. We refused the application for an adjournment on that ground, but Mr. Covey was permitted to use a spare bundle of papers that was within the court file.

5. Also at that same time Mr. Covey applied for an adjournment on the basis that he wished to take advice about, and thereafter pursue, a complaint that in proceedings brought by the Attorney-General this tribunal was not impartial, alternatively did not have the appearance of impartiality, because the Attorney-General’s predecessors may have been consulted about the appointment to the Bench of the present judges constituting this court. Again nothing had been said of this at any previous stage, including when the case opened. We refused that application. We have no knowledge of the details of the appointment process, either in our own case or more generally. But in any event, we are quite clear that the matters referred to do not create either the actuality or the appearance of bias, such as to render this tribunal incompetent to conduct these proceedings. That view was not altered by scrutiny on our part of the voluminous materials under the European Convention on Human Rights to which Mr. Covey drew our attention at a later stage of the proceedings.

6. Mr. Covey addressed the court from approximately 12.45 to when the court rose at 4.15, a period of some two and a half hours. Much of what he said appeared to us to be irrelevant to the details of the issues before the court, and much if it was directed at seeking to reopen the merits of actions already decided against him and of the dispute underlining some but not all of those actions to which I shall have in due course to come. All of his submissions, so far as fact was concerned, rested upon assertion of no relevant evidence having been filed. Some time was taken in reading out factual matter that had already been opened by counsel for the Attorney-General. Having unsuccessfully urged Mr. Covey to limit his submissions in the course of the afternoon, we then told him that the court would sit, as is its current practice, at 10 o’clock the following day and that he would be free to address us as he wished from that time until 11.30, but no longer. Mr. Covey complained of that ruling, but we declined to alter it. We had in mind the interests of other litigants who have a right of reasonable access to the court and to the court’s time, as well as the needs of the present case. We were satisfied that the time allocated would be amply sufficient for us to receive and understand Mr. Covey’s case.

7. When the court sat at 10 o’clock on the second day, Mr. Covey presented us with a 60-page skeleton argument. With his agreement, we retired to read the document and then returned to court at 10.30 to receive further submissions. We told Mr. Covey that in those circumstances he could continue until 11.45 but no longer.

8. The skeleton argument raised a number of preliminary issues on which Mr. Covey addressed us briefly further, and some matters of substance, the latter being dealt with later in this judgment. The new or renewed preliminary issues were as follows.

9. Mr. Covey renewed his application that the court should recuse itself on grounds of apparent bias. We have dealt with that matter above. In the course of his submissions he asked us if either of us had ever, when in practice at the Bar, been instructed by the Attorney-General. We each said that, so far as we could recall, we had not been so instructed, but we indicated that in any event such instructions in themselves would not have led us to recuse ourselves. We declined to respond to Mr. Covey’s further enquiry as to whether either of us was a Freemason.

10. In his skeleton Mr. Covey argued at length that he should have sight of any Bench memorandum or summary that had been prepared for this case. We refused that application. Mr. Covey recognised in his skeleton that this issue was concluded at the level of this court by the case of Parker v. Law Society, but he said that since that case might have been decided per incuriam or in breach of the requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights, he wished us to rule on the point again to keep it open for a further appeal. We declined so to do. The lengthy references in Mr. Covey’s skeleton argument to cases establishing principles of openness and fairness do not touch at all on the manner in which the court conducts its deliberations before delivering a reasoned public judgment. There is, in our judgement, nothing in the European Convention jurisprudence that touches the deliberative process, as opposed to the objective fairness, of a tribunal.

11. We turn now to the substance of the case. In his skeleton argument Mr. Covey repeated many statements made by judges emphasising the draconian nature of these proceedings and the need for care in the exercise of such proceedings. It would be superogatory for us to say more than that we are well conscious of those features of the jurisdiction.

12. There are before us 46 actions, most but not entirely all of which are alleged to have been vexatious. It will be necessary to refer to a large number of those actions. In doing so, I intend to adopt, for convenience, the numbering of the actions that was adopted in the list furnished to the court and to Mr. Covey by the Attorney- General. That list is cross-referenced from the numbers that I am going to use to the distinctive number of each action. It is simply for brevity that I use the numbers adopted in this court.

13. Many but by no means all these actions have, at least as their background, a dispute between Mr. Covey and a family called Daubney that appear to have arisen in the mid-1990s. Mr. Covey asserts that he had, at least since 1993, been the subject of untrue allegations of sexual perversion by the daughter of that family, that the parents had wrongly supported those allegations and generally harassed Mr. Covey and that they have wrongly conspired with the police to harass Mr. Covey and to ensure that his complaints remained uninvestigated. Mr. Covey also alleges that the father of the family, Mr. Terence Daubney, is a Justice of the Peace and that he has misused his position and his supposed influence with the police force in order to handicap Mr. Covey.

14. Another aspect of the matter, however, is demonstrated by a number of orders and convictions that have been recorded against Mr. Covey. On 12th March 1998, in the Guildford Crown Court, a restraining order was made under section 5 of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 against Mr. Covey on the basis that he had pursued a course of conduct between June and July 1997 amounting to harassment of a person called Julie Daubney and which he knew or ought to have known would amount to such harassment. The order was made for the purpose of protecting both Julie Daubney and three other members of the family, Terence, Kay and Russell Daubney. The order prevented Mr. Covey from directly or indirectly contacting any of those four persons or doing any act which was calculated to cause them alarm or distress.

15. A number of convictions have been recorded against Mr. Covey in criminal matters which relate to the Daubney family. On 17th April 1996, Mr. Covey was convicted at the Northwest Surrey Magistrates’ Court of common assault ----

16. MR. COVEY: I was denied a fair trial ----

17. LORD JUSTICE BUXTON: Please do not interrupt. He was convicted in respect of a common assault upon Kay Daubney and was sentenced to 80 hours’ community service and that he should pay £100 compensation and costs of £150. He appealed against that conviction to the Guildford Crown Court. On 23rd January 1997 the conviction was upheld in that court and further costs of £100 were awarded.

18. On 20th October 1997, Mr. Covey was convicted at the Northwest Surrey Magistrates’ Court of common assault on 19th May 1997 against Kay Daubney and sentenced to a month’s imprisonment. He again appealed against that conviction. The appeal was heard at the Guildford Crown Court on 12th March 1998 and the conviction was upheld.

19. On 20th October 1997 also Mr. Covey was convicted at the Northwest Surrey Magistrates’ Court of criminal damage, the victim being Terence Daubney, and he was ordered to pay compensation of £100. He appealed that sentence to the Guildford Crown Court and the conviction was upheld.

20. In relation to the matter of harassment -----

21. MR. COVEY: The Act didn’t come into force until the 1st of July. What crime have I committed after the 1st of July? None. At all times I’ve been denied access to a jury.

22. LORD JUSTICE BUXTON:Will you please not interrupt.

23. MR. COVEY: Well, you stop talking bollocks and I will.

24. LORD JUSTICE BUXTON: In relation to the matter of harassment, he was convicted at the Northwest Surrey Magistrates’ Court on 20th October 1997 of the offence of harassment against Julie Daubney and he was sentenced to a period of three month’s imprisonment -----

25. MR. COVEY: Nelson Mandela was jailed 27 years without a fair trial. I know how he feels.

26. LORD JUSTICE BUXTON: He was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment and the restraining order to which I have already referred was made. He appealed against that sentence to the Guildford Crown Court and the conviction was upheld.

27. Mr. Covey has made it quite clear that despite those convictions and despite his unsuccessful appeals he strenuously challenges the correctness of any of those decisions of the criminal courts. He tells us that he has referred the matters to the Criminal Cases Review Commission. He has also, in the course of the present proceedings, made it clear that he strenuously denies those convictions.

28. I have already referred to the Daubney family. Mr. Covey has brought a substantial number of actions against members of that family who, we remind ourselves, are Terry Daubney, Kay Daubney, Julie Daubney and Russell Daubney, who I understand to be the son of the family. It is necessary to indicate what those actions have been and what their outcome has been.

29. Action Number 1 was initiated by summons in the Guildford Crown Court on 18th December 1998 and brought against all four of the members of the Daubney family to whom I have made reference. It claimed in respect of what was described as harassment, characterised as a five-year hate campaign, vandalising his car, libel, slander and perjury. The relief claim was limited to £100. That has been a feature of many of the actions that Mr. Covey has brought. He explains this to us by saying that, because of the state of his finances, he can only afford the fee of £10, which is the fee limit in a case where damages sought are only to the amount of £100. As he explained it to us, on occasions when he finds himself in funds, he takes the opportunity of issuing actions. That action was eventually struck out by District Judge Page on 8th November 1999, apparently for failure to comply with an order to provide documents.

30. Action Number 3 was initiated on 31st December 1998 against Mr. Terry Daubney only. The complaint was that Mr. Daubney had committed perjury during a trial at Guildford Crown Court in March 1998, that being one of the trials which I have already listed. That action was struck out by District Judge Williams on 27th August 1999 as showing no reasonable cause of action.

31. Action Number 14 was issued on 5th March 1999 against Julie Daubney. It alleged common assault, in that Mrs. Daubney had allegedly assaulted Mr. Covey whilst they were waiting for proceedings to commence at the Guildford Crown Court on 11th August 1996. An order was made in that case that medical evidence should be served by Mr. Covey in support of his claim to have suffered injury by way of stress as a result of that act by Mrs. Julie Daubney. That order was not complied with, and the action was struck out by District Judge Page on 8th November 1999.

32. Action Number 15 was a summons against Miss Kay Daubney and was issued on 8th March 1999. It alleged perjury in that she had lied at Mr. Covey’s trial on the count of common assault and the subsequent appeal, and had lied in court in his second common assault trial in September 1997. Here again the damages were limited to £100. That action was struck out by District Judge Williams on 27th August 1999 as disclosing no reasonable cause of action.

33. Action Number 16 was again started on the same date, 8th March 1999, and was against Mr. Russell Daubney, alleging dangerous driving. That was consolidated with other actions and made subject to the order that Mr. Covey should file medical evidence in support of his claim for damages for personal injuries. That he did not do, and the action was struck out, with other actions in a similar position, by District Judge Page on 8th November 1999.

34. Action Number 18 was equally commenced on 8th March 1999 and was a claim for conspiracy against all four members of the Daubney family. It alleged that Kay and Russell Daubney had arranged or encouraged the claimant, Mr. Covey, to be assaulted in 1996, and also alleged that Terry and Julie Daubney had made false allegations to the police about Mr. Covey, thereby causing him, as was alleged, stress and trauma. That action was equally subject to an order that Mr. Covey should produce medical evidence to support his claim of stress and, that not having been done by him, it was struck out by District Judge Page, again on 8th November 1999.

35. Action Number 24 was not an action against the Daubneys but it related to Mr. Covey’s dispute with them. It was brought against a firm of solicitors who had communicated with Mr. Covey in relation to his action against the Daubneys. There seems to have been some confusion about whether this firm was, in the event, acting for the Daubneys at all. Since we have not seen the original letter of which Mr. Covey complains, it is not possible to reach any conclusion on that point. What he complained of was that a letter had been written to him in January 1999 -- it will be borne in mind, therefore, very shortly after the issue of Actions Numbers 1 and 3 -- which had caused him stress and anxiety. That action was struck out as disclosing no reasonable cause of action by District Judge Keogh on 18th May 1999. Mr. Covey did not attend that hearing, he told us, because he had not been informed of it. He appeared before District Judge Taylor on 7th February of this year to apply that the claim be reinstated, as District Judge Taylor had ordered he might do. That application by Mr. Covey was, however, unsuccessful.

36. Action Number 25 was another action started on 8th March 1999, the same date as Actions Numbers 15, 16 and 18 were commenced by Mr. Covey, and it was a claim for defamation against Mr. Terry Daubney which alleged stress caused by the refusal of Mr. Daubney to apologise for members of the defendant’s family calling Mr. Covey a pervert. We do not have ----

37. MR. COVEY: The actual phrase was “fucking pervert”, actually, so get it right.

38. LORD JUSTICE BUXTON: Very well. That action was commenced in the county court ----

39. MR. COVEY:You say that’s lawful, do you, Judge? That’s lawful behaviour, is it?

40. LORD JUSTICE BUXTON: That action was commenced in the county court but was transferred to the High Court. It was struck out in the High Court as an abuse of the process by Master Tennant, his decision being upheld by the judge in Chambers. Mr. Covey, in the course of submissions to us, expressed strong criticism of both of those judges in respect of the decisions which they had made.

41. Action Number 28 was commenced on 22nd March 1999 against Miss Kay Daubney, the claim being for intimidating a witness on 23rd January 1997. That was in the proceedings where Mr. Covey’s appeal against his first conviction of an assault, the victim of it being Miss Kay Daubney, had been heard at the Guildford Crown Court. The action was struck out by District Judge Williams on 27th August 1999 as disclosing no reasonable cause of action.

42. Action Number 30 was commenced by Mr. Covey in the Guildford Crown Court on 31st March 1999 and alleged common assault against Mr. Russell Daubney by way of dangerous driving. That action was struck out by District Judge Page on 8th November 1999, again because an order to file evidence supporting the claim for personal injuries had not been complied with.

43. Action Number 33 was commenced by Mr. Covey in the Guildford Crown Court on 14th April 1999 against all four members of the Daubney family. It alleged malicious falsehood, misleading the police in their enquiries and spreading lies about the claimant of a sexual nature knowing those stories to be false. Defences were served by each of the defendants, as they had been in other cases, contending that the action was vexatious. That action was struck out on 28th May 1999, on that occasion for non-payment of the allocation fee.

44. Action Number 40 was commenced against Mr. Terry Daubney on 17th November 1999, making a claim of unlimited damages for misfeasance. That action was struck out by Deputy District Judge Habershon on Mr. Covey’s undertaking not to issue further claims against the Daubney family prior to the hearing of an application in the Central London County Court for a Grepe v. Loam order. All the claims in respect of the Daubney family were transferred to ----

45. MR. COVEY: That is not quite true. It was agreed -- I promised not to appeal or issue any more proceedings. That matter was ... Grepe v. Loam. It was agreed by both parties it would have an independent hearing like a trial situation, and I’m still waiting for that. That’s what was agreed.

46. LORD JUSTICE BUXTON: All claims against the Daubney family were transferred to the Central London County Court. I shall revert shortly to the implications of that.

47. Looking at these actions, there are a number of points to observe. First, they were all started a substantial period after the conduct complained of, but, as Mr. Covey urged, were in each case within the limitation period. Mr. Covey said that the reason for that was that he had been ill, in prison or abroad during the intervening period. We have no evidence of that and his period in prison was not as extensive as the period of delay.

48. Secondly, a number of these actions appear to duplicate each other; for instance, Actions Numbers 16 and 30.

49. Thirdly, at least some, and probably a major number, of the separate actions could have been brought together in a single claim.

50. MR. COVEY: If I was on legal aid, I would have had advice, wouldn’t I.

51. LORD JUSTICE BUXTON: Fourthly, all of the actions have been struck out, either because of failure to comply with a court order or because they showed no cause of action.

52. Fifthly, some of the actions seek to relitigate, go behind or complain about the criminal cases in which Mr. Covey has been convicted. That aspect of this conduct is underlined by three further actions with which the court is concerned. Those are as follows.

53. Action Number 11 was commenced on 17th February 1999 and was brought against his Honour Judge Main, who was the judge who heard Mr. Covey’s appeal in respect of common assault on 23rd January 1997. Mr. Covey’s complaint against the judge was that he allowed a witness to be asked inappropriate questions, and therefore harassed, when she was giving evidence, as I understand it on behalf of Mr. Covey. That action was struck out by the court as disclosing no reasonable cause of action, in fact on the day after it was issued.

54. On the same day (17th February 1999) Mr. Covey issued a summons in the Guildford County Court against his Honour Judge Sleeman alleging negligence, in that he had unlawfully convicted Mr. Covey of spitting at Kay Daubney at one of the hearings relating to the allegations of common assault, and also alleging bias on the part of Judge Sleeman. That action was struck out by the court on the day after it was issued, again as disclosing no reasonable cause of action.

55. Action Number 37 was commenced on 5th October 1999 against a Miss Miller, who is or was a probation officer employed by the Surrey Probation Committee. That alleged libel and sex discrimination on Miss Miller’s part for compiling a vexatious and malicious report on Mr. Covey in April 1996, knowing it to be untrue. That action was struck out by District Judge Page after a hearing on 19th January this year. Mr. Covey was ordered to pay the defendant’s costs, assessed at £400.

56. In considering the test for whether conduct is vexatious we were taken to the most recent authority, the case of Attorney-General v. Barker [2000] 1 F.L.R. 759, and the judgment in that case of Lord Bingham of Cornhill C.J. I turn first to the passage at page 764 at letter B, where Lord Bingham said:

“‘Vexatious’ is a familiar term in legal parlance. The hallmark of a vexatious proceeding is in my judgment that it has little or no basis in law (or at least no discernible basis); that whatever the intention of the proceeding may be, its effect is to subject the defendant to inconvenience, harassment and expense out of all proportion to any gain likely to accrue to the claimant; and that it involves an abuse of the process of the court, meaning by that a use of the court process for a purpose or in a way which is significantly different from the ordinary and proper use of the court process. Those conditions are in my view met in this case. Many of the proceedings show no justiciable complaint and, as has been pointed out, several writs have been issued against individual officers in the same department when one writ would have served against them all.”

57. Lord Bingham then went on in a further passage to deal with the nature of vexatious litigation at page 764 at letter F, and said this:

“From extensive experience of dealing with applications under s 42 the court has become familiar with the hallmark of persistent and habitual litigious activity. The hallmark usually is that the plaintiff sues the same party repeatedly in reliance on essentially the same cause of action, perhaps with minor variations, after it has been ruled upon, thereby imposing on defendants the burden of resisting claim after claim; that the claimant relies on essentially the same cause of action, perhaps with minor variations, after it has been ruled upon, in actions against successive parties who if they were to be sued at all should have been joined in the same action; that the claimant automatically challenges every adverse decision on appeal; and that the claimant refuses to take any notice of or give any effect to orders of the court. The essential vice of habitual and persistent litigation is keeping on and on litigating when earlier litigation has been unsuccessful and when on any rational and objective assessment the time has come to stop.”

58. It has, I think, been put to us that Mr. Covey’s conduct (dealing at the moment solely with the Daubney cases) does not meet every detail of the formulation put forward by Lord Bingham in that latter passage. I am, however, satisfied that Lord Bingham did not mean in Attorney-General v. Barker, and certainly not in the passage at page 764 at letter F, to set down an exhaustive definition to be read as if it were a statute. While it is the case that it is not in form the same party pursued in each of the Daubney actions, and none of the actions seek to relitigate previous civil charges, there is no doubt that the target of the actions is the Daubney family and that an important object of part, at least, of the actions is to seek to reopen the previous criminal trials.

59. In my view, these cases clearly meet the test for vexation.

60. I have not overlooked that the present state of all these cases is that Mr. Covey wishes to appeal against all of the striking outs, except for Action Number 25 which has been struck out as an abuse of process. All other proceedings on the appeals have been stayed on Mr. Covey’s undertaking not to issue further proceedings, pending an application by the various Daubney defendants for a Grepe v. Loam order. No such application has been made. The Daubney’s solicitors have written to the court saying that they cannot afford to proceed. On that basis, as I understand the order in Action Number 40, it would be open to Mr. Covey to pursue his appeals. I have no hesitation in saying that he should not be permitted to do so without the leave of a judge of a High Court. These actions have a clear pattern of vexation and in my judgement should not proceed further. That that is so is reinforced by what I consider to be the vexatious conduct of Mr. Covey in relation to other defendants than the Daubney family, to which I shall now come.

61. The next group of actions is actions brought against members of or the Chief Constable of the Surrey Constabulary. It will again be necessary to set out each of those actions in the same mode I adopted in relation to the Daubney actions.

62. Action Number 2 was a summons issued in the Guildford County Court on 31st December 1998 against the Chief Constable of the Surrey Police, and it alleged an assault upon Mr. Covey when he was in custody on 1st January 1996; that is to say. some 23 months previously. The present state of that action is that the matter has been stayed, but in circumstances to which I shall return.

63. Action Number 5 is a complaint made on 31st January 1999 against the Chief Constable in respect of wrongful arrest on 23rd March 1996, it being alleged that Mr. Covey damaged a window. The proceedings are defended on the basis that there was reasonable suspicion of such conduct by Mr. Covey. The window, as I understand it, was a window in the Daubney house. Mr. Covey was observed in the area. The incident took place on the day after Mr. Covey had been convicted of common assault on Miss Kay Daubney. That action is also at present stayed, and I shall revert to that in due course.

64. Action Number 6 was commenced on 31st January 1999 against an officer of the constabulary described in the summons as P.C. Maybon, alleging that he lied during Mr. Covey’s trial for common assault on 20th March 1996 and his subsequent appeal, and had also apparently given Mr. Covey untrue information about a person called Mr. James Lake, who appears to be the person allegedly involved in the assault that is concerned in Action Number 2. It will be observed that this action equally seeks to reopen or go behind Mr. Covey’s criminal convictions. Because of the misnomer of the officer, there being no such person as P.C. Maybon and it being thought that the complaint in fact referred to a P.C. Mabon, it was necessary for a fee of £10 to be paid for the summons to be amended. That was not apparently done and so the action has not further proceeded.

65. Action Number 8 was issued on 9th February 1999 against the Chief Constable of the Surrey Police, and alleged negligence and dereliction of duty. The complaint was that Mr. Covey was assaulted in March 1996 (that is to say, again nearly three years before the issue of proceedings) by a man called Reeves, and that the police constable to whom the complaint was made failed to investigate or interview Mr. Reeves. I understood from Mr. Covey that in some way Mr. Reeves is involved with the man Lake, to whom reference has already been made; but we have no evidence on that and I make no findings on it. That action was stayed pending Mr. Covey’s production of medical evidence.

66. Action Number 9 was again a claim against the Chief Constable alleging what was described as “harassment”, causing stress and trauma amounting to actual bodily harm. A 20-page statement setting out Mr. Covey’s complaints (some of which we have already looked at) was appended or referred to. That action was stayed pending the service of amended particulars of claim.

67. Action Number 19 was commenced on 8th March 1999 against the Chief Constable and alleged against him conspiracy and perverting the course of justice in that he had colluded with Terry and Julie Daubney in order to persecute the claimant, and failing to carry out his duties when the claimant reported an incident. That action equally has been stayed, and I shall come back to its present condition in due course.

68. Action Number 20 was issued on 16th March 1999 against a Mr. Guy, a CID officer. He was accused of negligence and perverting the course of justice, in that a report was allegedly made to him on 23rd September 1998 at Guildford Crown Court alleging perjury against the Daubney family and Mr. Guy failed to do anything about it. That action has been stayed.

69. On 16th March 1999 four actions were issued. Action Number 20 was that against Mr. Guy with which I have already dealt. The next action issued on that same day was Action Number 21 against P.C. Barker of the Surrey Police. It claimed harassment and incidents of bullying and intimidation over a long period, and in particular in raiding Mr. Covey’s home at two in the morning with a warrant for unpaid fines. Mr. Covey took objection to that and told us that the fines were indeed unpaid and would remain so. There was also added to this action a repetition of the complaint made in Action Number 5 in respect of falsely arresting Mr. Covey for breaking a window.

70. Action Number 22 was again issued on 16th March 1999 and claimed unlawful imprisonment and causing actual bodily harm. Mr. Covey was detained, accused of putting up a poster connected with the Daubney family, but when the matter came to trial it was dropped because of no evidence. He alleges that the police throughout knew that he was innocent. He was remanded in custody in relation to that allegation.

71. Action Number 23 was the allegation that when he was in custody on 17th April 1998 the sum of £10 was stolen from his personal cash at Guildford Police Station, thereby causing him stress and anxiety.

72. Action Number 27 was a summons issued in the Guildford County Court on 22nd March 1999 against the Chief Constable. It alleged malicious prosecution, actual bodily harm and intimidation of a witness on 6th July 1997.

73. Action Number 29 was issued on 24th March 1999 against a person called Morris, an officer of the CID, and alleged negligence and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice; that is to say, by talking to two witnesses for the prosecution during a trial on 24th September 1997 at Woking Magistrates’ Court.

74. Action Number 31 was issued on 31st March 1999 and alleged malicious prosecution, this time in connection with the motoring incident involving Russell Daubney, Mr. Covey’s complaint being that he had sought to have Mr. Russell Daubney charged but he was not so charged; instead Mr. Covey had been arrested, he says, for swearing. This action was subject to an order of his Honour Judge Parry made in Action Number 9, and in the major part of these actions against the Chief Constable and individual officers, where Mr. Covey was forbidden from issuing further proceedings against the defendant or his individual officers without the leave of the court and was to serve a consolidated particulars of claim.

75. Action Number 32 was issued on 6th April 1999 against the Chief Constable of Surrey alleging intimidation of witnesses and actual bodily harm, in that the police sought bail conditions banning Mr. Covey from the Borough of Guildford for a period of four months until a trial. The charges, however, he says were in fact dropped.

76. Action Number 34 was issued on 14th April 1999 and claimed malicious prosecution in respect of proceedings brought against Mr. Covey for breach of the restraining order to which I have already made mention. Those proceedings were, Mr. Covey says, unsuccessful and they had been brought maliciously by the police.

77. Looking at this list of actions, there is no one single issue that runs through all of them, nor one single complaint, but they are an accumulation of proceedings against one defendant. Some of the actions seek directly to pursue further complaints about the Daubneys or about the criminal convictions. Instances of that are Actions Numbers 6, 19, 29 and 31. Some of them are repetitious. Actions Numbers 5 and 21 appear to cover some of same subject matter, as do Actions Numbers 9 and 21. Almost all of them have been issued only after a substantial period of delay.

78. Most but not all of the actions have been struck out. The situation so far as that is concerned is as follows. Mr. Covey was ordered, in respect of the major part of these actions, to provide proper details of the claims. He submitted in that connection a document described as “brief background notes”. When the matter came before his Honour Judge Cook, sitting at the Staines County Court in this instance, on 10th January 2000, he determined that the brief background notes did not comply with an order to provide proper particulars. Having read the document that appears to be the brief background notes and which is in our papers, speaking for myself I am not surprised that the court found it inadequate. The judge therefore ordered that all the claims should be struck out, apart from Actions Numbers 2, 5, and 27, in respect of which he gave directions for trial.

79. Lest it be thought that his Honour Judge Cook simply dealt with this on a procedural basis, it is important to note that an application was made to him by Mr. Covey for permission to appeal in respect of the order of 10th January and we have in our papers a copy of the ruling that was made by Judge Cook on that occasion. There he makes it clear that he had struck out 12 of the actions -- that is to say, all the actions other than those I have just mentioned -- as disclosing no cause of action, and in respect of the application for leave to appeal he said that the appeal was out of time and that the claimant could show no cause of action or real prospect of success in respect of the 12 claims shut out. I make it clear, therefore, that the court’s order was made not just on procedural grounds but because also there was no real prospect of success. The bringing of a series of actions which have no prospect of success is itself a sign of vexatious conduct.

80. The judge left three actions in being. Although they form part of the pattern of behaviour, I am not prepared, in view of the recent decision of the court having direct control of them, to place Mr. Covey under a disability in proceeding with them. I would therefore exclude those three actions from any order that this court will make.

81. MR. COVEY: Sorry, your Honour, can I just clarify a point? So therefore I will proceed -- is that what you’re telling me?

82. LORD JUSTICE BUXTON: I will come to that in a moment.

83. MR. COVEY: Oh, all right. I will, all right, that’s all I wanted to know.

84. LORD JUSTICE BUXTON: I next come to a number of actions that Mr. Covey has brought against the Co-Operative Insurance Society, by whom he was previously employed.

85. MR. COVEY: I don’t want to be rude, your Honour, but I just want to make the point that we didn’t even discuss this when I was making my submissions, because I never got that far, so I just make the point that I never even mentioned and discussed this with this court, so, you know, I haven’t even made any submissions on this, to Co-op, okay? I’ve not been -- you know, on these issues, so.

86. LORD JUSTICE BUXTON: So far as those actions are concerned, Mr. Covey was dismissed from his employment by the Co-Operative Insurance Society, apparently because of the conviction that was recorded against him in respect of the assault on Kay Daubney. He brought proceedings to complain of that dismissal in the industrial tribunal which proceedings were unsuccessful. He sought leave to appeal from the Employment Appeal Tribunal, which leave was refused. He continues to use the civil courts to seek to either relitigate this matter or to bring other unsuccessful proceedings against his former employers. The actions with which we are concerned are as follows.

87. Action Number 10 was an action commenced by Mr. Covey on 17th February 1999 in the Guildford Crown Court, that being the same day as he commenced Actions Numbers 11 and 12 against two of the judges who had sat in his criminal trials. That action was brought against Morison J. in his capacity as chairman of the Employment Appeal Tribunal, and alleged negligence in that Morison J. had refused permission to appeal the decision of the industrial tribunal because of that application being out of time. That action was struck out on the following day as disclosing no reasonable cause of action.

88. Action Number 35 was issued on 30th June 1999. It was against an employee of the Co-Operative Insurance Society, a Mr. Rose, who, from documents before the court, appears to have been one of the persons involved in the decision-making process that led to Mr. Covey’s dismissal. The claim was one of malicious falsehood, in that Mr. Rose had allegedly spread an untrue story that Mr. Covey had been arrested at the 1996 Cup Final. That claim was consolidated with Action Number 36, to which I shall shortly come, and was dismissed by District Judge Taylor on 20th December 1999.

89. Action Number 36 was brought in the Guildford County Court on 9th August 1999, again against the Co-Operative Insurance Society, and complained that the society had refused or cancelled Mr. Covey’s registration with the Personal Investment Authority and refused to give him a reference. These were matters that arose after he had been dismissed and, as it seems to me, arose directly out of and sought to challenge the grounds on which he had been dismissed. This action, consolidated with Action Number 35, was equally dismissed by District Judge Taylor following a hearing on 20th December 1999.

90. Action Number 41 was brought on 18th March 1999 against the Co-Operative Insurance Society and alleged bullying, discrimination and other similar matters by staff members from January 1995 to August 1996, but also complained of Mr. Covey’s having been unfairly dismissed. That claim was started, as I understand it, in the High Court and was transferred to the Guildford County Court and was struck out on 18th April 2000.

91. Actions Numbers 42 to 44 are brought against various employees of the Co-Operative Insurance Society alleging perjury in the trial of Action Number 36, and also, in Action Number 45, alleging negligence on the part of Mr. Covey’s union representatives in connection with those proceedings. The perjury actions were struck out on 7th February 2000 as disclosing no reasonable cause of action, as was the action against Mr. Covey’s union representatives. Here again it will be seen that these actions seek to re-open and relitigate matters already decided by other courts, albeit they do that not by the crude method of simply re-opening and re-issuing proceedings but by accusing those who have given evidence in those proceedings of perjury or other misconduct.

92. I have already held that the actions against the Daubneys are vexatious, and Mr. Covey’s conduct as that of a vexatious litigant is only reinforced by consideration of the actions which he has started against the police, against judges and against the Co-Operative Insurance Society. These have all the hallmarks of such conduct: the bringing of multiple actions against a particular target which have no sound basis in law; repetition; the relitigating of issues already determined; and the refusal to acknowledge decisions of the court as manifested not only by the course of conduct but also by the strong criticism expressed to us by Mr. Covey of the capacities and the probity of the judges who have decided cases against him. These features of vexatious litigation are undoubtedly present in this case, even though they do not manifest themselves in the precise terms referred to by Lord Bingham C.J. in the second passage which I have read from his judgment in Barker.

93. Mr. Covey advanced various courses that might nonetheless be taken, other than the making of the order sought by the Attorney-General. Those included making no order at all, adjourning the proceedings, making an order limited in time or relying on orders in individual proceedings or categories of proceedings, such as Grepe v. Loam orders. We have considered all of those possibilities in the light of the many decisions of this court to which attention is drawn in Mr. Covey’s skeleton argument, furnished to the court on the second day of the hearing. We have concluded that none of them is a proper course in this case. There is no reason to think that merely adjourning the matter will have any effect. Indeed Mr. Covey made it clear that he would wish to be free to litigate as he wished.

94. The background to the events has no identifiable ending point, in contrast, for instance, to the position in the case of Attorney-General v. Yeo, and there is otherwise no identifiable termination point to Mr. Covey’s activities and no other ground for making a time-limited order. Although Mr. Covey’s activities (or most of them) have their origin in one particular dispute, he has not confined himself to litigation against the Daubneys. The widespread nature of his activities makes it impossible to confine proceedings in respect of a particular subject matter or against a particular defendant or defendants.

95. We must also add that, unlike, for instance, Mr. Barker in Lord Bingham’s case, Mr. Covey has provided no explanation of his conduct to show why, despite the findings that we have made, a limited order or no order at all should issue. It is quite clear from his written submissions and from his submissions in this court (and, I have to say, his manner of making those submissions) that he regards litigation of this sort as a legitimate weapon and his conduct as entirely justified.

96. The present order is required as a legitimate protection, not only of the legal process but also of those against whom Mr. Covey may decide to litigate in future.

97. Mr. Covey, in his oral submissions to us and also in his skeleton argument, made extensive reference to the European Convention on Human Rights. At one stage he seemed to argue that his alleged treatment by the Daubneys and by the police was cruel and degrading treatment under Article 3. That is a consideration that is irrelevant to these proceedings, even if any material had been adduced to support it. Also, and more relevantly, he contended that these proceedings and the making of an order were a denial of access to the court under Article 6. We were shown two cases, which we do not need to specify in detail, in which the Commission of the European Court has held that vexatious litigant orders in the English process are not such; and, as a matter of principle, the reasonable and proportionate ordering by the court of its processes, after enquiry of the detail that has had to be undertaken in these proceedings, including in that ordering of process the requirement of a filter in some cases to ensure that the court processes are properly used, plainly does not involve any breach of Article 6. There is nothing in this point.

98. I for my part would make the order as prayed by the Attorney-General, but subject to the exclusion from the ambit of paragraph 2 -- that is to say, forbidding further steps in an action -- the three actions against the police that by the order of the judge at the Guildford County Court are still proceeding in that court; that is to say, Actions Numbers 2, 5 and 27. I would also exclude another action brought by Mr. Covey, currently on hand and to which I have not referred, Action Number 13, which appears to be an orthodox action for personal injuries and which was not relied on by the Attorney-General as being vexatious.

99. Subject to those exclusions, I would make the order as sought.


101. LORD JUSTICE BUXTON: Now, Mr. Tolley, you will have to draw the order for us, please, or see that it is drawn.

102. MR. TOLLEY: My Lord, I am grateful. It was hoped that there would be a draft order available, but it is not.

103. LORD JUSTICE BUXTON: That is all right, but you must draft it as soon as possible and send a draft copy to Mr. Covey and to the court so that we can make sure that what we have said is properly set out.

104. MR. COVEY: Your Honour, two points. I want permission to appeal or leave to appeal, and number two, could I have costs of the transcript at public expense, as I am -- and two copies for the Court of Appeal under Order 68, I’m told.

105. LORD JUSTICE BUXTON: We do not grant you permission to appeal. You will have to go elsewhere for that.

106. In order to enable you fully to consider your position on that, I will order that you may have one copy of the transcript at public expense. Should you wish to make a further application in respect of copies of transcripts, you may do so; but you will perhaps be aware that the initial application to the Court of Appeal is made to a single judge so you need only one copy for that purpose.

107. Thank you very much.

108. MR. TOLLEY: My Lord, it should also be expressly recorded there is to be no order as to costs.

109. LORD JUSTICE BUXTON: You do not seek an order.

110. MR. TOLLEY: The Attorney-General does not seek an order for costs.

111. LORD JUSTICE BUXTON: No order for costs.

Attorney General v Covey (Court of Appeal)
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