IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE CO/4306/99
QUEEN’S BENCH DIVISION
Royal Courts of Justice
Thursday 16th December 1999
B e f o r e:
LORD JUSTICE ROSE
MRS JUSTICE SMITH
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INTERIM APPLICATION WITH NOTICE
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(Computer-aided Transcript of the Stenograph Notes of
Smith Bernal Reporting Limited
180 Fleet Street, London EC4A 2HD
Telephone No: 0171-421 4040/0171-404 1400
Fax No: 0171-831 8838
Official Shorthand Writers to the Court)
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MR JAY (instructed by the Treasury Solicitor) appeared on behalf of the Applicant.
The Respondent appeared in person.
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J U D G M E N T
16th December 1999
1. MRS JUSTICE SMITH: This is an application on behalf of Her Majesty’s Attorney General under section 38 of the Supreme Court Act 1981, for an interim injunction whereby the respondent, Ms Mottershead, be prevented from commencing or continuing any civil proceedings pending the full hearing of the Attorney General’s application under section 42 of the 1981 Act that she be declared a vexatious litigant.
2. The evidence put before the court on the Attorney General’s behalf is that Ms Mottershead has commenced more than 50 actions since 1998, which the Attorney General submits constitutes a course of conduct which is vexatious in nature.
3. In order to understand the case it is necessary to explain the history. In 1992, Ms Mottershead resigned her position as a lecturer at the Bournemouth and Poole College of Further Education, where she had taught since 1983. Her employment at the college ceased at the end of 1992. During the year, she had suffered a period of poor health.
4. At that time, Ms Mottershead lived at 5 Leaphill Road Kings Park, Bournemouth, Dorset, a property which she purchased in August 1982 with the aid of a mortgage with the Abbey National Building Society in the sum of £36,000. At the time of purchase, Ms Mottershead had also taken out two endowment policies with Royal Life Insurance which were assigned to the Abbey National in support of the mortgage. From about 1991, arrears began to accrue on Ms Mottershead’s mortgage account and this led to an application for possession of the property by the Abbey National, which was commenced in late 1994 in the Bournemouth County Court.
5. A possession order was made against her in March 1995, and her application to suspend the order for possession was refused in July 1995. The house was repossessed by bailiffs a few days later and was subsequently sold by Abbey National, as mortgagees in possession.
6. In the following year, 1996, Abbey National surrendered the two endowment policies, and the Royal Life paid the proceeds to Abbey National. In September 1995, soon after her home had been repossessed, Ms Mottershead commenced a three year postgraduate course at Lancaster University, funded partly by the Economic and Social Research Council, the ESRC, and partly by the Council for Protection of Rural England, the CPRE.
7. At the end of the first term of her course concerns were expressed by the authorities about the quality of her work, and the monies provided by the funding authority were withheld. As a result of these concerns, Ms Mottershead was temporarily excluded from the University, an exclusion which she appealed unsuccessfully. She was permanently excluded in October 1996. As a result, the funding authorities terminated her payments and the University excluded her from the institution.
8. One must observe that at this stage Ms Mottershead had suffered a great deal of misfortune, in particular the loss of her home and her employment. During the years 1995 to 1997, Miss Mottershead began actions against the Abbey National Building Society and against an employee of Lancaster University, but for present purposes I proposed to ignore those early matters.
9. It was not until August 1998 that there commenced a period of intense activity in the courts which forms of basis of the Attorney General’s present application. During the next 12 months, almost 50 actions were commenced. In the main, those actions related in some way to one of the three matters I have referred to, the loss of Ms Mottershead’s home, and her dealings with Abbey National and Royal Insurance, the termination of her employment with the Bournemouth College and the consequent financial effects, and the financial consequences of her exclusion from Lancaster University. There were also other actions relating to miscellaneous matters.
10. The actions which are concerned with the loss of her home evince a refusal to recognise the fact that the house at 5 Leaphill Road no longer belongs to her. Amongst other complaints she has made, she has sought possession of those premises from the present occupants and she has sought rectification of the land register.
11. A recurrent theme in the litigation are complaints against various bodies alleging that they have failed to comply with requests made by her under the Data Protection Act for disclosure of records relating to her. I can summarise the position by saying that between August and December 1998, she commenced nine actions relating to the loss of her home and the dispute with the Abbey National Building Society. In the first half of 1999, there were more actions relating to those issues. Most of those actions were struck out or discontinued with no order as to costs, although in several, as I shall later discuss in greater detail, there are outstanding appeals or applications to reinstate or reconsider the most recent orders.
12. Between June 1998 and April 1999, Ms Mottershead brought five actions against the CPRE and three against the ESRC. All save one have been discontinued or struck out. In one, no step has been taken for several months. In addition, Ms Mottershead has brought at least five actions arising out of the termination of her employment at the Bournemouth College.
13. In addition to those actions already mentioned, there have been no less than 15 other actions against a variety of people and bodies. These include a medical negligence claim against her former doctor for misdiagnosis of an illness in 1991; a claim against the Department of Education who, she alleges, have denied that she was ever a grade 8 lecturer; a claim against a building insurance policy, a claim for defamation and for unauthorised deductions from a bank account. Again, most of those actions have been struck out or discontinued. Two have resulted in modest victories, for example, Ms Mottershead has obtained a judgment for £56 in the County Court.
14. It must be observed that Ms Mottershead has not begun any fresh action since August 1999. Of the actions she has begun, approximately 26 appear to have been struck out and about 21 discontinued. However, several remain alive and there are applications and appeals outstanding, according to Ms Mottershead herself, in no less than 29 cases. Some of them are appeals against striking out orders, some are applications to reopen the case on the basis of fresh evidence, and some seek reconsideration of an order already made by a district judge.
15. This is the evidential basis of the Attorney General’s application. On behalf of the Attorney General, Mr Jay submitted that the respondent’s course of conduct over the past two years demonstrates that there will, at the full hearing of this matter, be a very strong case against her. The Attorney General will be able to show that she has habitually and persistently without reasonable grounds instituted and pursued vexatious proceedings. He submits that that course of conduct continues. There are several hearings due to take place in the near future and there is every reason to suppose that unless restrained Ms Mottershead will continue to commence and pursue vexatious proceedings.
16. The final hearing of the Attorney’s application is not likely to take place until March or April next year and, in Mr Jay’s submission, there will be a considerable waste of time, money and resources if Ms Mottershead is not restrained from pursuing these outstanding actions and commencing others.
17. Ms Mottershead has appeared before the court today in person and has addressed the court, if I may say so, with great courtesy and clarity. She put before the court some written submissions and from those -- and indeed from her oral submissions -- it is apparent that she still regards 5 Leaphill Road, Kings Park as being her property. Indeed, she has given that address as her address for service in these proceedings, as she has given it in many proceedings during the past two or three years.
18. Today she has asserted that she remains the owner of that property, although she acknowledges that the matter has been the subject of legal dispute. She has submitted that her conduct has not in any way been vexatious, and before commencing her various actions, she has not only complied with any pre-action protocol, she has also sought the advice and the authority of appropriate persons or organisations. She alleges that she has had permission to litigate in various individual cases from the Lord Chancellor, the former Prime Minister Mr Major, the Home Office, Dorset police, Dorset Health Authority, Dorset City Council, several High Court judges and district judges. She also claims that she has received advice from various people in positions of authority before commencing her actions.
19. She asserts that in the case of each action she has brought she has had the leave either of the person sued or of a judge or district judge. She has also named a number of firms of solicitors from whom she has taken advice.
20. She informed the court that she had not been served with the three lever arch files in which the bulk of the Attorney General’s submission evidence is set out. We doubt that submission as the affidavit of service records that the three bundles were handed to her. However, in any event, Ms Mottershead has a very good and detailed recollection of each action which the court has considered, and there has been no need to refer to the documents during the course of the hearing as there has been virtually no dispute of fact. She has explained to us where, in her view, the Attorney General’s representative’s witness statement contains inaccuracies and we have, for present purposes, accepted her recollection as being accurate.
21. That being so, in my view, there will be no injustice to Ms Mottershead in determining this application today. Ms Mottershead has taken us through the schedule of cases prepared by the Treasury Solicitor case by case, explaining the current position and correcting any inaccuracies in the summary as she understands the position to be.
22. From her submissions it is clear, in my judgment, that for Ms Mottershead litigation has in recent years become a way of life. Once an action has begun, she will pursue every avenue open to her regardless of the merits of the instant case; she pursues every avenue short of appealing to the Court of Appeal, which she has not yet done. All the actions have been begun in the County Court. It appears that one or two may now have been transferred to the High Court. She has pursued exhaustively the remedies provided by the County Court.
23. In the case of HM v Attorney General ex parte Campbell, reported only in the Crown Office Practice 1997, page 249, Lord Bingham CJ gave guidance as to the principle to be applied by the court when considering an application for interim relief pending a full hearing under section 42 of the 1981 Act. He said this:
“It was clear that the court had jurisdiction to grant interlocutory relief where the Attorney General applied for a litigant to be declared vexatious. The court would however only grant such a relief where a strong case for the granting of final relief was made out, where there was likely to be a substantial delay before the matter could be finally heard and where there was a probability that unless restrained by an interlocutory injunction the respondent would resort to further allegedly vexatious proceedings.”
24. He made it plain also that it was important to emphasise that the court was not being invited to make a final decision as to whether the litigant would finally be declared vexatious.
25. In my judgment, the Attorney General will have a strong case when this matter comes on for hearing some time next year. The number of actions begun and pursued in the last two years is very substantial. The nature of those actions appears to me to show that Ms Mottershead has become obsessed with the injustice, as she perceives it to be, of losing her home. She has other grievances which she seeks to ventilate by proceedings which are either then abandoned or struck out. I do not, of course, make any finding that Ms Mottershead will be declared vexatious. I say only that, at present, it appears to me that the Attorney General’s case seems strong and that her grounds of opposition do not.
26. As I have said, the hearing is likely to take place in March or April. It is clear from Ms Mottershead’s own submissions that unless an order is made now, there will be hearings in January or February in the existing actions on at least 20 occasions and possibly as many as 29. Several of those are already scheduled to take place in January, others await a hearing date.
27. I have indicated that Ms Mottershead has not begun a new action since August 1999, however, I am bound to say that it does seem to me likely that she may well begin further new actions. She has indicated to us that a significant reason why she has not begun any action since August is because her computer is presently out of order. It does appear to me likely that in the event of her computer being repaired or replaced she would resume her practice of commencing actions regularly in the County Court. I am fortified in that view because it is apparent that Ms Mottershead still maintains her entitlement to the ownership of the property at 5 Leaphill Road. While she maintains that stance it seems to me likely that she will continue to litigate unless restrained. I would therefore grant the application for an interim injunction.
28. LORD JUSTICE ROSE: I agree. Accordingly, the application for an interim order restraining the respondent from instituting or continuing with any civil proceedings pending the hearing of the substantive application under section 42 of the Supreme Court Act 1981 will be granted.
29. THE APPLICANT: May I ask a question please? In the summary that I have just listened to, my Lord, there is no reference to the ruling that has already been made in the County Court that I am not a vexatious litigant.
30. LORD JUSTICE ROSE: We dealt with that aspect in the first part of the proceedings this morning when Smith J gave the first judgment on that occasion. You are correct there was no reference to that in this judgment but there was in the early judgment.
31. MS MOTTERSHEAD: May I ask a second question please? In listening to the decision it is my opinion that the judge relied entirely on the information given by the applicant in this case. There has been a great deal of false information. Do I have a right of appeal to present evidence to the court in relation to evidence relied on in making the decision?
32. LORD JUSTICE ROSE: There are two points to be made in making that decision. The first is that this court did not rely simply on the information provided by counsel for the Attorney General. We listened for a considerable time to your explanation in relation to what happened. So far as the right of appeal is concerned, there is not one.
33. THE APPLICANT: I feel that it is fraud, and it is being further perpetrated in relation to my house. I am 100 per cent certain that I am the owner of 5 Leaphill Road.
34. LORD JUSTICE ROSE: I am sorry. We cannot debate that matter with you. We have given our judgments and I am afraid you have to be bound by them.
35. THE APPLICANT: I accept that. However, my loyalty is to the Queen and I am a member of the Church of England, and I am sure that she would want to know the truth and the truth is not being put before the court about my house and my ownership. If heavy reliance is based on that information it is false, and I feel that I have suffered a massive theft and fraud.
36. I have judgments pending execution. I have spent a lot of money already. I have costs orders pending and I have judgments for claimant awaiting to be executed. I have suffered a massive fraud. I am beginning to recover the money that I have lost. I was a prosperous person and I have suffered a massive fraud. I am not asking for the decision to be -- I do not feel that the facts and truth of the matter have been put before the court. I am not asking for the decision to be altered, however, I am not going to be able to recover the money that it is already --
37. LORD JUSTICE ROSE: Ms Mottershead, the last thing I propose to say before we adjourn is that the effect of today’s order is simply until there is a final hearing of this matter in March or April. We have not today made a declaration that you are a vexatious litigant. We have simply made an order holding the position until there is a full hearing. We shall now adjourn.
Attorney General v Mottershead (2)
Attorney General v Mottershead (Court of Appeal)
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