IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE CO/1967/2000
QUEEN’S BENCH DIVISION
Royal Courts of Justice
Strand, London WC2
Thursday, 7th December 2000
B e f o r e:
LORD JUSTICE MAY
MR JUSTICE POOLE
H M ATTORNEY GENERAL
DAVID ROBERT JONES
Computer-aided Transcript of the Stenograph Notes
of Smith Bernal Reporting Limited
190 Fleet Street, London EC4A 2HD
Telephone No: 0207-421 4040/0207-404 1400
Fax No: 0207-831 8838
(Official Shorthand Writers to the Court)
The applicant appeared in person
MR S GRODZINSKI (instructed by Treasury Solicitors, Queen Anne’s Chamber, The Broadway, London, SW1H 9JS) appeared on behalf of the respondent
J U D G M E N T
(As approved by the Court)
1. LORD JUSTICE MAY: This is an application on behalf of the Attorney General under authority delegated to the Solicitor General for a Civil Proceedings Order under section 42 of the Supreme Court Act 1981 against Mr David Robert Jones. The section provides that:
“...if on the application made by the Attorney General under this section the High Court is satisfied that any person has habitually and persistently and without reasonable ground (a) instituted vexatious civil proceedings whether in the High Court or any inferior court and whether against the same person or against different persons or ... [and then two sub-sections which I do not read] ... the court may after hearing that person or giving him an opportunity of being heard make a Civil Proceedings Order.”
2. The next following section tells us that a Civil Proceedings Order means an order stopping the person against whom it is made from bringing or continuing civil proceedings other than with permission of a High Court judge.
3. It is important to know that this is not, if it is made, an absolute bar to the bringing of civil proceedings; it simply means that they cannot be brought unless a High Court judge is satisfied in accordance with the section that the proceedings intended are reasonably brought.
4. Mr Grodzinski who represents the Attorney General this morning has very kindly provided us with basic background law on the subject which can briefly be summarised as follows. In a case called Re Chaffers (1897) Wright J said:
“The consideration of whether a person has habitually and persistently instigated vexatious legal proceedings without any reasonable ground does not depend on a minute examination of whether in each particular action there was a reasonable ground; we must consider the number of actions brought, their general content and their results.”
5. There was a case in 1959 called Re Vernazza. In that case Parker CJ said this:
“In considering whether any proceedings are vexatious one is entitled to, and must look at, the whole history of the matter, and it is not determined by whether the pleading discloses a cause of action. Indeed, that is the principle applied under the rules of the court when application is made to strike out a pleading. Though the pleading may be in order, the court, in its inherent jurisdiction, is entitled to look at affidavits as to the history of the matter, and if, in the light of that history the action is vexatious, the pleading can be struck out and the action dismissed.”
6. Much more recently this year the then Lord Chief Justice, Lord Bingham, in a case called Attorney General v Barker on 16th February said this:
“From extensive experience of dealing with applications under section 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 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.”
7. I say straight away that not all of those examples properly apply in Mr Jones’ case, and it will be necessary to consider whether the Attorney General has sufficiently established matters which have to be established before this court could exercise its discretion one way or another under the section. In particular, although, as will appear, Mr Jones has brought a very large number of actions unsuccessfully, against successive parties, he has not, in the main at least, automatically challenged every adverse decision on appeal; nor would it be right to say baldly that he refuses to take any notice of or give any effect to the orders of the court. In the main, he has brought actions, they have been struck out, and that has been that.
8. Bingham LCJ in Barker also said this:
“The hallmark of vexatious proceeding is in my judgment that it has little or no basis in law, or at least no discernible basis, but 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 have accrued 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.”
9. It is necessary to say briefly that on an application such as this, this court does not revisit the merits of the underlying decisions (that appears from a case called Attorney General v Jones  1 WLR 859). The standard of proof is a civil one, but a heightened civil one to take into account the seriousness of the issues at stake. It is, of course, a serious matter if anyone is impeded, although as I have said not prevented, from bringing proceedings in court.
10. It has been decided that the making of an order under section 42 does not by itself violate Article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights; that is a case called Attorney General v Price. As I have already indicated, and it applies to this case, under the Law Officer Act 1997 all the functions of the Attorney General may be exercised, as has happened in this case, by the Solicitor General.
11. Mr Grodzinski submits, and it will be necessary just to trawl through some of these cases, that Mr Jones is an inveterate litigator whose actions are invariably based either wholly or partially on incoherent complaints; that they are often on the same subject matter and often against the same individuals or related people or organisations; that none of the actions which he refers to have succeeded or even been allowed to reach the stage of trial; that the actions referred to are very numerous: 25 have been brought to our attention, although it appears possible that there are some more elsewhere that have not been referred to.
12. Of the 25 actions started by Mr Jones between 1997 and 1999, all of them in the Uxbridge County Court, 19 have been struck out by the District judge, one has been dismissed, one action lapsed because the summons was not served within four months of issue, and four have been stayed under part 51 of the Civil Procedure Rules.
13. It is necessary to refer in brief to the detail of some of these actions. I am grateful to Mr Grodzinski for his summary which I am going to use and then make some observations in relation to it.
14. Mr Jones brought an action, UB701495, against Three Valleys Water. It was started on 8th May 1997. It related to alleged provocative and deliberate overcharging by Mr Jones’ water provider. It was struck out on 11th September 1997.
15. He brought action UB702061 against Hillingdon Health Authority. This was begun on 13th June 1997. It is not easy to see exactly what he was complaining about but it appeared to relate to a decision to send him to hospital under the Mental Health Act 1983 and some question of him being blacklisted by local solicitors. That action was struck out on 9th October 1997.
16. He brought action UB702062 against B Padman. This was begun on 13th June 1997. He claimed damages of £10,000 for land encroachment, harassment and other matters. Part of this claim was struck out on 2nd October 1997 and the remaining parts of it were dismissed by District Judge Carlton Edwards on 15th February 1999. That action was one which generated slightly more activity than some of the others which were, so far as the papers before us tell us, simply started and then struck out.
17. Mr Jones brought action UB711878 against the Civil Aviation Authority. He started it on 19th November 1997. There was a reference to vilification of character. There was a long and rather incoherent document which suggests a complaint relating to an arrest of Mr Jones by the West Drayton Police Force in connection with work he was doing for the Ministry of Defence. There was also a letter from the Ministry of Defence dated 16th June 1997 making it clear that they were not interested in what Mr Jones might offer. That action was struck out on 11th February 1998.
18. He then brought action UB711876 against Northwick Park Hospital. It started on 19th November 1997 and was a claim for damages for invasion of privacy. It related to something to do with Mr Jones’ hospitalisation under the Mental Health Act. That was struck out on 11th February 1998.
19. He brought action UB711879, again against Northwick Park Hospital. It was started on 19th November 1997, made similar applications as the other one, and it was struck out on 2nd October 1998.
20. He brought action UB711880 against Colin Paxton. He started that on 19th November 1997. This is the fourth action started on 19th November 1997, and there is one or more to come. It was a claim relating to attempts by an employee of British Gas, Mr Paxton, to deal with a gas leak at Mr Jones’ premises. He was alleging that Mr Paxton entered his premises illegally to remove his gas meter and that there was then a malicious prosecution of Mr Jones by the police to cover this up. The action is recorded as having been dismissed by a Deputy District Judge on 16th March 1998.
21. The next action was UB711881, again started on 19th November 1997. This was against a firm of solicitors called Karen Bennett and Booth Bennett. It was a claim against those solicitors for failing to act on certain instructions from Mr Jones relating to a claim he reckoned he had for forgery and harassment against various people, whose identity is not at all clear. It contained a feature that Mr Jones had valuable scientific information that others were using and had been wrongfully attempting to get it from him. That action was struck out on 11th February 1998 on the basis that the claim was statute barred pursuant to the Limitation Act 1980.
22. Mr Jones then brought action UB711883 against Dr Chand. This was again on 19th November 1997, and broadly speaking it appears to have alleged medical negligence against Dr Chand. That action was struck out on 11th February 1998.
23. He then brought action UB711882 against Hillingdon Health Authority, again on 19th November 1997. That was again about his hospitalisation under the Mental Health Act 1983. That was struck out on 11th February 1998.
24. He brought action UB711873 against Dr Vaughan-Smith, again starting on 19th November 1997, claiming damages for invasion of privacy and that, again, had some relationship with hospitalisation under the Mental Health Act. That was struck out on 11th February 1998.
25. He brought action UB711874 against Dr Wittingham, again on 19th November 1997. It was similar to one of the previous actions and was struck out on 11th February 1998.
26. Then he brought another claim against Three Valleys Water, UB711875, still on 19th November 1997. This related to alleged overcharging by the water authority. That was struck out on 11th February 1998.
27. Then we move on a bit because the next action, UB712019, was against the Institute of Physics. That began on 26th November 1997. It is not easy to read the particulars of claim, but it was related to Mr Jones’ belief that he had valuable scientific information. That was struck out on 11th February 1998.
28. Then on the same day, 26th November 1997, action UB712020, Mr Jones brought proceedings against a circuit judge, whom he wrongly called Lord Justice Marder. That was one of two cases. The next one is a similar one and makes claims in relation to a criminal prosecution which Mr Jones told us a bit about in 1989 when he was prosecuted in relation to a bomb hoax. The details of that I do not think are essentially important. This action against the judge was struck out on 11th February 1998, as was the next one, which was against HHJ Bathurst-Norman, wrongly named as Lord Justice Bathurst-Norman, and that had allegations also relating to the matter of the bomb hoax back in 1989.
29. Then there was UB800909, which is the first of a series of actions against Darren Tubb; there were five, I think, in all of these. This was first started on 16th February 1998 and was a claim against Mr Jones’ neighbour in Gledwood Avenue, Hayes, Middlesex, alleging assault, grievous bodily harm and criminal damage. The question of a garden gate crops up in one or more of these five actions. The second of them was UB901817, started on 30th March 1999. The third, UB901818, was started on the same day. The next of them was started again on the same day, UB901819. The fifth one was also started on 30th March 1999, UB901820. They were all struck out on 27th April 1999.
30. Then there was UB902820 where Mr Jones brought proceedings in April of 1999 against Abbey National. This is the first of a number of actions related to a mortgage that Mr Jones apparently had with the Haselmere Building Society, and he was unhappy because the Haselmere Building Society, as I understand it, was taken over by the National and Provincial Building Society, and there was, so Mr Jones thought, trouble with the terms and conditions upon which that was effected. That action was stayed under part 51 of the Civil Procedure Rules on 26th May 2000.
31. Then there was UB902021, an action against Brian Murphy, started on 12th April 1999. This related to a complaint about the mortgage which had been made to the Building Societies Ombudsman. The action again was stayed under the Civil Procedure Rules.
32. The next action was UB902022, against the Department of Health and Social Security. That alleged that the department had not acted properly in paying benefits to allow Mr Jones to repay his mortgage. That was stayed under the Civil Procedure Rules on 26th May 2000.
33. Finally there was an action started on 12th April 1999 against a Mr Allan Milledge, who is a complaints officer at the Office of the Banking Ombudsman. Mr Jones made a complaint to the Ombudsman about Abbey National, and Mr Milledge wrote to Mr Jones in March of 1999 stating that the complaint had already been dealt with and apparently rejected. That action was stayed under the Civil Procedure Rules on 26th May 2000.
34. So there were, according to the Attorney General, these 25 actions which I have briefly summarised. Mr Grodzinski says in addition to the bare summary that if you look at the claims themselves, you find that a large number of them are incoherent in the way in which they are expressed. The incoherence perhaps does not come across in the summary that I have given. Mr Grodzinski says that they are not all even comprehensible. He submits that a lot of them have themes and that as claims they have a strong air of unreality. He suggests that many people have been the subject of actions several times, and points to the fact that four of the actions concern Northwick Park Hospital or doctors there, five of them concern Mr Darren Tubb, three of them relate to the Abbey National or the Building Societies Ombudsman, or are related to terms and conditions upon which the Haselmere Building Society mortgage had been taken over. Mr Grodzinski also points out that there are numerous examples of what he would submit are claims for disproportionate remedies. As a matter of fact, most of these actions have their claim limited to £3,000 at any rate on one part of the claim form, and it is obvious that that was in order to bring the claim formally within the arbitration limit, or as it now is the small claims limit, although that has gone up to £5,000; but that in other parts of the claim Mr Jones records that his claim is vastly greater than that: £300,000 here, £500,000 there and a million pounds somewhere else. Mr Grodzinski says that it is a characteristic of a lot of these claims that they allege a wide ranging conspiracy against, in some instances, two judges; in other instances organisations who have, so it is said, been concerned with Mr Jones and his affairs.
35. A fair body of written material has been provided to the court. We have a bundle of Internet communications, quite a wodge of them here. I think it is fair to say that those communications are long, detailed, and, if I may say so without offence, pretty incoherent. We also have a file of communications between Mr Jones and the representative of the Attorney General. Again, there are quite a lot of those and, again, they have the same kind of characteristic that I have described. Very helpfully, however -- and I have to say that I have been much more helped by what Mr Jones has himself told us this morning than what he has written and we have the opportunity of looking at -- Mr Jones wrote a communication on the Internet dated 27th November 2000 which helpfully and briefly contains only seven paragraphs. He has helped us through those paragraphs in order to express the essence of why he says, as I understand he does say, that we ought not to make the order that is sought this morning.
36. The first two of those perhaps are, if I may say so, thoroughly understandable submissions directly relevant to what this court has to consider. The first of them, I paraphrase as follows, is that Mr Jones says that yes, there are these 25 proceedings and yes, they were struck out, but I have not started any proceedings since May of 1999, and this court, he suggests, should take account of that fact and should, I think he puts it this way, accept from him that, as to what he might be doing in the future, he proposes only to consider bringing proceedings with the help of a solicitor or other lawyer. So, he says, the lapse of time since he started any of these proceedings in Uxbridge and the fact that he is not going to bring any more proceedings without the help of a solicitor is a reason why we should not make the order.
37. His second highly relevant point as it seems to me is that he says that approximately 50 per cent of the cases really have not got anywhere. He has started the claim and the District Judge has struck it out and really nothing very much else happened. No bother really to the defendants, who did not have to do very much, and yes, there is a bit of bother to the court, but that is a reason why although these proceedings are perhaps very numerous, they are not that troublesome in the way in which Mr Jones has conducted them. As far as that is concerned, Mr Grodzinski says, and I think he is right so far as he goes, that this court ought to take note of the fact that even if defendants are not troubled, nevertheless valuable court time is taken up dealing even with actions of this kind.
38. The remaining five paragraphs of this document that Mr Jones relies on I propose to try to summarise, I hope understanding what it is that Mr Jones is essentially telling us. My understanding is this: he is a man who enjoys making inventions and making innovative discoveries. He told us that he designed a dew point sensor on the bus as he came to court this morning and he designed a pressure sensor yesterday. He told us that these innovations come into his head a lot of the time. He is a very inventive mathematician and he has these ideas. The ideas are potentially valuable, and what he finds is that people get hold of them and exploit them for their own benefit, rather than for his benefit. He suggests that NASA has done this on occasions. He is not very keen on some of the things that he says Brunel University have done, but if I am understanding him correctly -- it is possible that I am not, but I hope I am -- he says that people get hold of his ideas, use them, make a lot of money out of them and do not reward him for the invention.
39. He I think is saying, I may be wrong, partly that this is a justification for some of the actions that he brought in the past, and partly that it is the kind of legitimate reason why he ought not to be stopped from bringing actions in the future.
40. He has a paragraph here which I think refers to the fact that some time ago he was banned from the University of London Union. He reckons that was wrong and maybe he wants to bring some proceedings in relation to that. He has another paragraph which goes back to the time when he was concerned with aircraft engines and so forth, and radar with the Ministry of Defence, when he was, I think, back in 1976, it appears from his blood donor certificate, working for Marconi. I think he is saying that maybe the Ministry of Defence have been getting hold of some of his ideas. Paragraph 6 says, and it is perfectly plain, that he ought to be paid compensation for matters of this kind.
41. For those reasons, of which I think the first two are those which we need to consider most, Mr Jones, as I understand it, suggests that we should not make the order.
42. The court has to consider whether it is established that Mr Jones has habitually and persistently and without any reasonable ground instituted vexatious civil proceedings. For my part, the catalogue of actions that the Attorney General puts before the court and their subject matter wholly justifies a finding that that is established. I am afraid to say that I think Mr Jones has habitually and persistently and without any reasonable ground instituted a whole lot of vexatious civil proceedings.
43. The next question then is, whether having heard what Mr Jones has to say on the subject, we ought in our discretion to make a Civil Proceedings Order against him. I take account of the fact that there has been a period of time since May 1999 when no proceedings have been instituted, and I take account of the fact that quite a lot of these proceedings did not get very far before they were struck out. But it does seem to me that the nature of the proceedings, their incoherence, -- I am sorry to use their expression but I am afraid to say I think it is justified -- the number of them, the repetitive nature of some of the allegations, the fact that they have been brought against, if not always the same people, at least related people or institutions, and the fact that they have all been struck out, leads me to the conclusion that the order ought to be made.
44. In reaching that conclusion, I re-emphasise that that does not shut Mr Jones out from bringing reasonable and legitimate proceedings in the future provided he can satisfy a High Court judge that they are both reasonable and legitimate. But for those reasons I would make the Civil Proceedings Order in the form that appears in section 42(1)(a) of the Act as asked by the Attorney General.
45. MR JUSTICE POOLE: I agree.
46. MR GRODZINSKI: My Lords, I have no further applications. Those instructing me have very helpfully, and I hope not presumptuously, prepared draft orders, in the hope that your Lordships would grant the order that they have.
47. LORD JUSTICE MAY: You can hand that in. Thank you very much.
48. (To Mr Jones) Do you want to correct something?
49. MR JONES: Yes, I do not think NASA has ever attempted to steal any of my ideas. I think you were incorrect.
50. LORD JUSTICE MAY: In that case I misunderstood you. You said something about NASA.
51. MR JONES: Yes, of use to NASA.
52. LORD JUSTICE MAY: I am very sorry about that. I will try to remember to correct that when the transcript comes along, but --
53. MR JONES: Can I go through the list of little bits to correct?
54. LORD JUSTICE MAY: If you would like to do that, perhaps you would like to write it.
55. MR JONES: I can do that. How does that affect the process?
56. LORD JUSTICE MAY: It does not affect the process because we have made our decision.
57. MR JONES: Okay.
58. LORD JUSTICE MAY: Thank you very much.
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