Neutral Citation Number: [2003] EWHC 1291 (Admin) CO/4312/2002


Royal Courts of Justice
London WC2
23 May 2003

B e f o r e :





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MR JAY QC and MS FORMBY (instructed by TREASURY SOLICITOR) appeared on behalf of the CLAIMANT
MR O’BRIEN (instructed by KAIM TODNER) appeared on behalf of the DEFENDANT



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  1. LORD JUSTICE SCOTT BAKER: There is before the court an application by the Attorney General for Mr Ratra to be declared a vexatious litigant, pursuant to Section 42 of the Supreme Court Act 1981. Section 42(1) provides:

    “If, on an application made by the Attorney General under this section, the High Court is satisfied that any person has habitually and persistently and without any 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
    “(b)made vexatious applications in any civil proceedings, whether in the High Court or any inferior court, and whether instituted by him or another; or
    “(c)instituted vexatious prosecutions (whether against the same person or different persons),
    “the court may, after hearing that person or giving him an opportunity of being heard, make a civil proceedings order, a criminal proceedings order or an all proceedings on order.”

    In this case, what is sought is a civil proceedings order, which is defined in subsection (1)(a), to which it is unnecessary for me to refer. Subsection (2) provides:

    “An order under subsection (1) may provide that it is to cease to have effect at the end of a specified period, but shall otherwise remain in force indefinitely.”

    Mr Jay QC, on behalf of the Attorney General, is seeking an order to remain in force indefinitely. Then subsection (3):

    “Leave for the institution or continuance of, or for the making of an application in, any civil proceedings by a person who is the subject of an order for the time being in force under subsection (1) shall not be given unless the High Court is satisfied that the proceedings or application are not an abuse of the process of the court in question and that there are reasonable grounds for the proceedings or application.”
  2. This matter came before another division of the Divisional Court some three months ago, when the application was adjourned because of concerns about Mr Ratra’s mental capacity. Those concerns have now been resolved, to the extent that the court has been provided with a medical report by a consultant in forensic psychiatry, Dr Tom McClintock, who is approved for the purposes of Section 12 of the Mental Health Act 1983. I would add that there are currently proceedings in the Crown Court, and Mr Ratra is awaiting sentence. The court has been concerned to obtain medical reports in that regard, with a view possibly to making a hospital order. Dr McClintock’s opinion is as follows:

    “1. Based on the totality of the information available to me, including previous psychiatric reports, descriptions of Mr Ratra’s behaviour during the current proceedings and my interview with him, I am satisfied that he suffers from both a mental illness and a disordered personality.

    “2. Given the nature of the symptoms which he described to me at interview, it is likely that Mr Ratra is experiencing a relapse in his psychotic illness. Although there has been disagreement as to the exact nature of this psychotic condition, it is likely that he has paranoid schizophrenia.

    “3. The information also strongly suggests that he has a diagnosis of paranoid personality disorder in that he misconstrues every day social interactions in a malevolent manner or at times in an over familiar way. It is this which has led him to be labelled in other reports as a vexatious litigant.

    “4. In my opinion, Mr Ratra requires a litigation friend as he is incapable of managing and administrating his own affairs. This is as a result of his mental illness and personality disorder, both being within the meaning of the Mental Health Act 1983.

    “5. Mr Ratra is to be admitted under my care at the John Howard Centre next week detained under Section 38 of the Mental Health Act 1983, for treatment and assessment.”

  3. My understanding is that Mr Ratra has been admitted to the John Howard Centre, which is a medium secure unit, and he is currently being assessed under Section 38 of the Mental Health Act 1983. In the result, the Crown Court has adjourned sentence to await the result of that assessment.

  4. When the matter was previously before the Divisional Court, Hale LJ was concerned not only to obtain up-to-date information about the mental condition and capabilities of Mr Ratra, but also mentioned the possibility that, instead of making a vexatious litigant order under Section 42, some more flexible approach might be possible.

  5. Mr O’Brien, who has appeared today for Mr Ratra, concedes that the circumstances of this case are such that the criteria of Section 42(1) are met. He does, however, submit that that is not the end of the matter, because even where the criteria are met, the court has a discretion whether or not, in all the circumstances, to make an order. Mr O’Brien is clearly right in that submission. This court has to consider whether it is appropriate in the circumstances of this case to make a Section 42 order.

  6. The official solicitor has helpfully been making enquiries, following the direction of the court on the last occasion, as to Mr Ratra’s capacity. He has agreed to act as Mr Ratra’s litigation friend in these Section 42 proceedings. He has not agreed to act as Mr Ratra’s litigation friend in any other proceedings that are currently under way, or that Mr Ratra may bring. He would, however, review each case on its merits individually at the appropriate time.

  7. It is necessary to say a brief word about the litigation that has led to this application. On 10th January 2002, HHJ Collins stayed all the proceedings issued by Mr Ratra in the Central London County Court. On 29th January 2002, a Grepe v Loam type restriction was imposed by Master Whittaker on Mr Ratra, restraining him from issuing any further claims in the High Court. This order was upheld by Sullivan J on 15th July 2002. These orders and the interim order previously made by this court are not intended to be permanent, and so the question arises today as to what form of permanent order the court should make.

  8. The precise number of claims issued by Mr Ratra is unknown. The Central London County Court does appear to have been the hub of his activity, although there are other courts, such as the Tunbridge Wells County Court, where proceedings have been issued. The Attorney General has not been able to obtain the documentation, or, at any rate, all the documentation.

  9. Mr Jay advances the Attorney General’s case on the basis of some 66 claims, that are set out in a schedule annexed to the statement of the Attorney General’s representative, and are more particularly described in Mr Jay’s skeleton argument. It appears that 28 of these 66 actions have been stayed, and the other 38 have been struck out. The pattern of the claims is that one incident gives rise to a multitude of claims against many parties. As time passes, the tentacles of the litigation spread wider, drawing more and more people into the litigation on increasingly spurious grounds. An example is to be found in Action 1 and what followed. Action 1 involved an incident at the British Museum, the detail of which it is unnecessary to go into. Action 2 also involved the British Museum. Action 3 involved the party with whom Mr Ratra was having an altercation at the British Museum incident. Actions 4, 5 and 6 brought in the Metropolitan Police, arising out of same incident. Action 7 was directed against a Mr Foreman and Mr Young, who were the duty solicitors at the Holborn Police Station on 11th and 18th August, when the alleged incidents at the museum occurred. Action 8 involves further proceedings directed against Mr Foreman. Action 9 is another action against the Metropolitan Police Commissioner. Action 10 was directed at the Office for the Supervision of Solicitors, in respect of the alleged misdeeds of Messrs Foreman and Young. Action 11, and this shows in my judgment how the tentacles spread wider and wider, targets Mr Drew, a barrister who gave advice initially in respect of the actions against the British Museum and the Metropolitan Police. Then the Legal Services Ombudsman, Ms Abraham, was brought in by Action 12, in respect of complaints about the solicitors in Actions 7, 8 and 13. Action 13 relates to another duty solicitor who was on duty at the time of one or other of the British Museum incidents.

  10. That is a very brief analysis of a number of actions that all arose out of one incident. If one went through, which I do not propose to do, the remainder of the 66 actions, one would see a similar pattern of one alleged incident increasingly bringing in more and more defendants.

  11. The sole issue before this court today is whether the court should exercise its discretion to make a vexatious litigant order under Section 42, or whether there is an alternative route that would be appropriate. That alternative route, sought by Mr O’Brien, is that the court should make a declaration under part 21(3) that no proceedings should in future be instituted without representation of Mr Ratra by a litigation friend because of his mental condition.

  12. Mr Jay points out that making such an order would leave the door slightly open, and would be a recipe for trouble. I accept that submission. It seems to me that there is here a very good reason for making an order under Section 42, which is plainly justified on objective grounds. It may well be that it is the underlying illness of Mr Ratra that has led him to behave in the way that he has. One of the advantages of making an order under Section 42 is that there is a machinery for publishing the names of those on the list throughout the civil courts of this country, so that a court will or ought to be aware if a vexatious litigant seeks to institute proceedings. Mr Ratra can then be referred to the High Court, where the ordinary filtering process of obtaining the leave of a High Court judge has to be followed before proceedings can be taken.

  13. It seems to me that the course advocated by Mr O’Brien leaves open the risk that, first of all, the claimant may appoint a litigation friend who does not know the whole background, or is not going to approach matters in the same sensible and objective way as an official solicitor might. Furthermore, the court will be unaware that there is this background of vexatious litigation, and why the court has made the declaration that Mr O’Brien asks us to make.

  14. In these circumstances, for my part, I have no doubt whatever that this is an appropriate case to exercise the discretion to make a civil proceedings order, and to make it without limit of time. I would make that order accordingly.


  16. MR JAY: My Lord, there is no other order which I seek.

  17. LORD JUSTICE SCOTT BAKER: Thank you very much. I am very grateful to the official solicitor for coming into this and assisting.

  18. MR O’BRIEN: My Lord, I would just ask for a detailed assessment and a public funding certificate in these proceedings.


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