IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICECO/2147/97
QUEEN’S BENCH DIVISION
Royal Courts of Justice
Wednesday, 15th July 1998
B e f o r e:
LORD JUSTICE ROSE
MR JUSTICE BELL
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HER MAJESTY’S ATTORNEY-GENERAL
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MR R JAY QC (instructed by the Treasury Solicitor, London SW1H 9JS) appeared on behalf of the Applicant.
THE RESPONDENT did not appear and was unrepresented.
J U D G M E N T
(As approved by the Court)
Wednesday, 15th July 1998
LORD JUSTICE ROSE: By an Originating Notice of Motion dated 20th June 1997 the Attorney-General seeks a civil proceedings Order under section 42 of the Supreme Court Act 1981. That application is supported by affidavits from Mr Peter Bennett and Mr Stephen Glendinning.
The Attorney-General today is represented by Mr Robert Jay QC, who, at the outset of the hearing, indicated that it was not possible to establish that the Respondent, Miriam Richards, had been served with notice of today’s hearing. Without rehearsing all the reasons for that, it suffices to say that the address which the Attorney-General has for the Respondent is one on the premises of Lancaster University. By the terms of the injunctive relief (to which a little later I shall come) granted to the University, the Respondent is prohibited from attending the premises of the University. What is clear from an application made by the Respondent on 9th July 1998 is, first, that she is continuing to proffer that address at the University as being her address, namely the Porters Lodge at Furness College, Lancaster University and, secondly, that she is litigiously active presently.
In those circumstances Mr Jay has invited the court to exercise its powers under section 37 of the Supreme Court Act to make an interim Order ex parte which, if she wishes to do so, the Respondent will have the opportunity of seeking to have discharged.
The relevant approach before such an Order could be made is, first, to consider whether or not the circumstances of this matter (as in a moment I shall outline) give rise to a particularly strong case for making a civil proceedings Order under section 42 of the Act. That section permits an Order to be made if the court is satisfied that someone has habitually and persistently and without reasonable ground instituted vexatious civil proceedings. In such a situation an Order can be made, provided the Respondent to the application has been given the opportunity of being heard. It is implicit in what I have already said that, because of the difficulties in relation to service, this court cannot today be satisfied that this Respondent has been given the opportunity of being heard.
Turning to the circumstances of the application and the assessment of the strength of the grounds on which it is made, it is necessary, first, to rehearse the background which has given rise to litigious activity on the part of the Respondent.
In September 1994 she started a three-year LLB course at Huddersfield University. She was, having failed in three of the papers and having failed to appear on referral, deemed to have failed that year’s course by the University.
However, on 23rd August 1995, she telephoned the Lancaster University admissions officer seeking entry to their law course. She did not mention her previous attendance at Huddersfield University nor did she mention that in the letter which she wrote on the same day, following her telephonic inquiry. That letter referred to “3-4 years experience as a Legal Secretary civil and criminal law”.
A letter purporting to have been written by the Respondent to the Lancaster University admissions officer on 21st July 1995, giving details of her study at Huddersfield, was never received by the University. In any event, the assertion in that alleged letter, that she had “... passed all course work at C grades. ...” was plainly contrary to her academic results at Huddersfield, as I have already sufficiently identified them.
On 8th September 1995 she sent her UCAS form to Lancaster which said that the last institution she had attended was not Huddersfield University but South Bristol College. Later in September Lancaster University received the Respondent’s 1995 UCAS form and the accuracy of the information in that document was warranted by the Respondent. A little later, her 1994 UCAS form was also received by the University. At that stage her application to enrol at the University was rejected. But subsequently she was accepted. She agreed to "... abide by the Charter, Statements and Rules of the University ..."
At the end of October 1995 the Lancaster University learned for the first time of the Respondent’s true academic lack of success at Huddersfield. Thereafter, the Respondent’s grant authority was notified by the University that she had not, as had been claimed, transferred courses, but had started afresh without approval having been given on academic grounds. The consequence of that was that the grant authority withheld the Respondent’s grant because they only had power to award the necessary monies in a “transfer” situation.
In February 1996 the University Tribunal deregistered the Respondent, and her appeal to the Vice Chancellor was dismissed in March 1996.
The first action which the Respondent started against the University in the County Court (LA 502125) was not vexatious. The University had failed to comply with its disciplinary procedures. Subsequently, they did correctly comply with their disciplinary proceedings. But thereafter the Respondent launched a series of proceedings which, in the submission of Mr Jay on behalf of the Attorney-General, were misconceived in two respects. First, the court has no jurisdiction because the nature of the Respondent’s complaint against the University, which features in the proceedings which she has instituted, is one falling exclusively within the jurisdiction of the University visitor: see Page v Hull  AC 682. At no stage did the Respondent make a complaint to the University visitor. Secondly, once the initial proceedings (to which in a moment I will turn) had been struck out, all the subsequent proceedings, which were identically based, were effectively res judicata.
The first of those actions (LA502275) was struck out by Her Honour Judge Holt in early 1996.
The second action (PR602989) was struck out by District Judge Haythornthwaite on 2nd August 1996.
The third action, which was brought both against the University and against South Gloucestershire County Council, was struck out, insofar as it related to the University, by Her Honour Judge Holt on 7th November 1996.
On 6th March 1997 His Honour Judge Appleton dismissed certain applications by the Plaintiff (that is to say, the Respondent to the present application) in relation to the County Council, but it is unclear from the documentation before the court what, if any, fate befell the proceedings against the County Council.
The next action (PR607285) was struck out by District Judge Turner on 14th January 1997, and an appeal against that striking out to His Honour Judge Andrew QC was dismissed by him on 7th February 1997.
There was a further action instituted against the University and the South Gloucestershire County Council in the Leeds County Court (LS751842). That was struck out by His Honour Judge Appleton on 14th May 1997.
A further action in the Leeds County Court against the same two defendants (LS753494) gave rise to the dismissal on 30th April 1997 of the Respondent’s application for an injunction against the University by His Honour Judge Walton. There were a number of other applications in those proceedings and, ultimately, on 16th and 17th April 1998, District Judge Forrester struck out the Particulars of Claim. A Notice of Application to Appeal was lodged on 1st May 1998, but the fate of that application is not known.
The Respondent instituted High Court proceedings against the University out of the Central Registry (1998 R No.317). The writ was issued on 12th March 1998. It is in that action that, on 9th July last, the Respondent made an application to which at the outset of this judgment I referred as indicating her present litigious activity and as disclosing the address which she has at all material times given. That is an application, to be heard on 27th July, by the Respondent for judgment against the University in default of defence.
A further action (LV810875) gave rise to an application by the Respondent for an injunction against the University, and on 24th April 1998 no order was made on that application.
A further action (LA 800460) was started by the University of Lancaster against the present Respondent with a view of obtaining an injunction to exclude her from their property. As I indicated earlier in this judgment, such an injunction was granted on 13th March 1998. In connection with those proceedings two documents have come to light, one ostensibly from the University’s solicitors and the other from the Lancaster student registry, on the face of both of which it does not immediately appear that genuineness is a characteristic.
On 24th March District Judge Nuttall dismissed an application by the Respondent to discharge the injunction obtained by the University, and her appeal to His Honour Judge Smith against that dismissal was, in turn, dismissed on 23rd April 1998.
The Respondent has, additionally, in proceedings against the University (LA 902125) sought unsuccessfully to commit the University for contempt of court. On 11th May His Honour Judge Smith refused leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal against his Order of 23rd April 1998, dismissing the Respondent’s application that the University show cause why they should not be committed.
In the light of those matters and directing myself in accordance with the well-known principle enunciated by Lord Parker CJ in In re Vernazza  1 WLR 622 at 624, in the concluding paragraph of the judgment, which it is unnecessary to rehearse, I am satisfied that it is appropriate to grant an interim Order against the Respondent under section 37 of the Supreme Court Act, that being a strong prima facie case that she has habitually, persistent and without reasonable grounds instituted vexatious civil proceedings.
For my part, I would indicate that that Order should be susceptible to discharge on application by the Respondent on comparatively short notice.
MR JUSTICE BELL: I agree.
MR JAY QC: Would your Lordships say 48 hours notice?
LORD JUSTICE ROSE: Yes.
MR JAY QC: My Lords, if the application were brought before the end of the term and subject to your Lordship’s and Bell J’s other commitments, would your Lordship indicate that the application be heard by this court?
LORD JUSTICE ROSE: Yes, but we do not reserve it to ourselves. If it is practicable for the application so to be heard, it will be heard.
LORD JUSTICE ROSE: Is there anything else?
MR JAY QC: My Lord, no.
Richards v Attorney General
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