IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE NO: CO/4306/99

QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION

DIVISIONAL COURT

Royal Courts of Justice

Strand

London WC2

Wednesday, 29th March 2000

B e f o r e:

LORD JUSTICE KENNEDY

VICE PRESIDENT OF THE QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION

and

MR JUSTICE BUTTERFIELD

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HER MAJESTY'S ATTORNEY GENERAL

-v-

 

MISS MOTTERSHEAD

 

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Computer-Aided Transcript of the stenograph notes of

Smith Bernal Reporting Limited,

180 Fleet Street, London EC4A 2HG

Telephone No: 0171 421 4040 Fax No: 0171 404 1424

(Official Shorthand Writers to the Court)

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MR JAY QC (instructed by Treasury Solicitors, London SW1H 9JS) appeared on behalf of the Appellant

The Respondent was not represented and did not appear

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J U D G M E N T

(As approved by the Court)

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Crown Copyright

Wednesday, 29th March 2000

1. LORD JUSTICE KENNEDY: Her Majestyís Attorney General seeks a civil proceedings order against this respondent, pursuant to section 42 of the Supreme Court Act 1981 as amended. The lady, Miss Mottershead, is not here today but we are satisfied that she is aware of todayís proceedings.

2. This matter came before this court, consisting of Rose LJ and Smith J, on 16th December of last year when the same applicant sought an interim order, and that order was then made. On that occasion Miss Mottershead was present. Immediately thereafter, or very soon thereafter, a date for the hearing of todayís proceedings was fixed, it was a date in February which, in the event, could not be met by the court because of pressure of other business.

3. Miss Mottershead was written to by the Treasury Solicitor on 11th February of this year at two addresses: at the address which she had given as her contact address and another address which the Treasury Solicitor had been able to discover by making inquiries as to whether she was still believed to be present at the first address in Lancaster. Each of the letters made it clear that this hearing would take place today. It is to be assumed, and we are prepared to assume, that one if not both of those letters reached Miss Mottershead and, in consequence, that she was aware of todayís proceedings. She has done nothing to contact either the Crown Office or the Treasury Solicitor to suggest that she has any address other than the first address to which the letter was sent. In consequence, all possible steps have been taken to advise her about what is happening today.

4. The power which the court is invited to exercise is set out in section 42 of the Supreme Court Act 1981. It enables a court, if satisfied that any person has habitually, persistently and without reasonable ground instituted vexatious civil proceedings, whether in the High Court or in any inferior court, and whether against the same person or against different persons, or has made vexatious applications in any civil proceedings, whether in the High Court or any inferior court, and whether instituted by her or by another to make, after hearing that person or giving her an opportunity of being heard, to make a civil proceedings order. It is that power which we are invited to exercise.

5. As was said by Lord Parker CJ in the case of Vernazza (1959) 1 WLR 622, at 624:

"A court hearing such an application must look at the whole history of the matter."

6. To that I now turn. It is set out in two statements of Scott Andrew Trueman and the exhibits to those two statements to which, to some extent, Miss Mottershead has responded in an affidavit which she swore on 12th November of last year and which we have read.

7. Between 1983 and 1992 Miss Mottershead was a lecturer at Bournemouth and Poole College of Further Education. She resigned from that position on 19th October 1992 and her employment came to an end on 31st December of that year. Whilst she was so employed, on 20th August 1986, she took out a mortgage with the Abbey National Building Society for £36,000, secured on her new home at 5, Leaphill Road, Kings Park, Bournemouth. She also entered into two endowment policies with the Royal Life Insurance Company which were assigned to the building society as part of the transaction.

8. Between 1991 and 1995 arrears increased in relation to the mortgage account. In February 1995 the building society sought and obtained a possession order. That order was made on 8th March 1995. Thereafter, Miss Mottershead sought to have the order set aside. On 7th July 1995 she applied for an order that it be suspended, but that application was refused. It seems that in that month the building society did enter into possession of 5, Leaphill Road. However, Miss Mottershead retook it and, on 28th September of that year, the building society finally took possession of the premises.

9. The property was then sold by the building society to a Mr and Mrs MacMillan, but the simple fact that she was no longer the owner of 5, Leaphill Road was, sadly, a fact which Miss Mottershead was wholly unable to accept. She has sued the Abbey National Building Society and the Abbey National Plc, its successor, on 12 occasions, claiming unauthorised deductions from savings and from mortgage accounts and other forms of remedy. She has sought access under the Data Protection Act 1984 to materials relating to her held by Abbey National. She has simply, in reality, in each and every case, been attempting to deny the repossession proceedings which took place. She has also sued Abbey Nationalís solicitors, Shoosmith and Harrison, for releasing what she described as inaccurate information to the Land Registry; the information alleged to be inaccurate was, of course, the information relating to repossession.

10. She has sued the Land Registry itself three times, and the Chief Land Registrar, because the Land Registry has recorded the MacMillans as the true owners of the property in succession to herself. She has sued the Treasury Solicitor twice as solicitor to the Land Registry. She has sued a firm of estate agents, Palmer Snell, part of the Friends Provident Group, and Palmer Snellís predecessor, London and Manchester (Agency Services) Limited. She has sued the Royal Life Insurance, part of the Royal and Sun Alliance Group, because the Royal Life insurance policies were surrendered by Abbey National on 23rd December 1996, the surrender value was paid to Abbey National, in accordance with the contractual arrangements which existed as a result of the repossession proceedings which had taken place. She has made allegations of wrongful payment, malicious falsehood and defamation.

11. Under a quite different head, she has brought claims in relation to her employment in Dorset. She has claimed that her appointment was to the wrong pay grade and that she wrongfully dismissed on the basis of ill-health. She has also claimed wrongful deductions from wages, national insurance and pension rights. She has sued Dorset County Council alleging defamation of character and she has sued the Dorset police because of their activity in relation to burglaries which she claimed took place and which were reported during the 1990s.

12. Moving from Dorset to Lancashire, she undertook a course of study at Lancaster University in September 1995, which was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council and the Council for the Preservation of Rural England. Unfortunately, there were concerns in December 1995 when that course of study was only three months old as to the quality of her work.

13. In March 1996 she was temporarily excluded from the university. She appealed against that and, on 9th October 1996, her exclusion was made permanent. She then complained of the fact that the sponsoring bodies refused further to fund her. She sued both of them and Lancaster University. She also sued individuals in relation to those failures to pay funds.

14. In summary, she has brought something over 54 actions, which are exhibited in the lever arch files which we have before us; 25 of them have been struck out at some stage; 21 of them have been discontinued; four of them are outstanding and it is believed that that does not really represent the totality of her litigation, which has extended to a general practitioner on one occasion.

15. In those circumstances, and having looked at some of the examples of litigation this morning with the assistance of Mr Jay, I, for my part, am satisfied that she has habitually, persistently, and without reasonable ground instituted vexatious civil proceedings in the High Court but, particularly, in the County Court, and in inferior courts against different people, who I have identified, and that she has done so in proceedings which she has instituted.

16. I am satisfied that she has been given the opportunity of being heard in relation to whether or not this order should now be made and, in the circumstances, having had that opportunity, but not having chosen to take advantage of it, I am satisfied that the situation now is that a civil proceedings order should be made without limit of time.

17. MR JUSTICE BUTTERFIELD: I agree.

18. MR JAY: I have no further application.

Attorney General v Mottershead (1)
Attorney General v Mottershead (Court of Appeal)
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