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18 September 2023

What is a vexatious litigant and what can be done to stop them bringing claims?

5 mins

There is no formal definition of what a vexatious litigant is within the Civil Procedure Rules, but it is widely agreed that it amounts to a person who brings repeated litigation claims against others in the knowledge that those claims have no merit, or someone who repeatedly ignores court orders.

Often, vexatious litigants commence proceedings many times against the same person for substantially the same reasons.

A person should have access to justice, and Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights provides that everyone should be entitled to a fair and public hearing to determine their civil rights.

However, what happens in a situation where, despite repeated attempts, an individual is not prepared to accept that their claim has no merit? These repeated claims and applications are a waste of both the opponent’s and the court’s time and money, time that could be better spent on meritorious claims.

In such circumstances, there are a number of options available to both individuals and the government to prevent these litigants from making further applications or issuing further claims for a certain period of time, or in some instances, indefinitely.

Civil Restraint Orders

If you are subject to two or more claims or applications from a party that are entirely without merit, you may wish to consider making an application for a Civil Restraint Order (CRO). Such applications, if successful, prevent an individual from making or issuing claims or applications for a specific period of time in a specific court, without permission of the court. If they try to make an application or bring a claim without the court’s permission, it will be automatically dismissed.

As set out above, in order to make such an application, the individual must have made two or more claims or applications that have been determined by the court to be ‘totally without merit’. Case law has said that this means the claim or application must be ‘bound to fail’. If you believe that your opponent has brought such a claim or application, you should ask the court to confirm in their order that it was ‘totally without merit’.

There are three different types of CRO:

  1. Limited CRO: this prevents an individual from making any further applications within the specific proceedings without the court’s permission
  2. Extended CRO: this prevents an individual from making any applications or issuing claims in the court specified in the order without first obtaining the court’s permission
  3. General CRO: this prevents the individual from making any application or issuing any claims in any court without the court’s prior permission

There is usually a time limit put on the CRO by the court, but an Extended CRO or a General CRO can only last a maximum of two years, meaning that once it has expired, the individual is then free to make further claims or applications.

All Proceedings Order

If, following the making of a CRO, the individual continues to make claims or bring applications, it is possible to make an application to the Attorney General to request that they bring a claim under section 42 of the Senior Courts Act 1981 for a Civil Proceedings Order/Criminal Proceedings Order/All Proceedings Order to determine the individual to be a vexatious litigant. Such applications can only be made by the Attorney General and will only be made following a thorough investigation of the history of the previous claims/applications made by the individual.

If granted, the effect of the All Proceedings Order means that the individual cannot begin civil or criminal proceedings without first obtaining the High Court’s permission. Unlike a General CRO, there is no time restriction on the length of the order, and indefinite orders are not uncommon.

The government maintains lists of vexatious litigants and individuals who are subject to both Extended and General CROs. These can be accessed here.

Failure to abide by an All Proceedings Order can lead to proceedings for contempt of court being brought against the individual who breaches the order.

In the case of HM Attorney General v Millinder [2021] EWHC 1865 (Admin), the Attorney General applied for and successfully obtained an indefinite All Proceedings Order against Mr Millinder for his repeated applications and claims against Middlesbrough Football Club, which were deemed to be totally without merit. Mr Millinder also sent various threatening emails and other correspondence to the judges, solicitors and counsel (for Middlesbrough FC), despite having had both an Extended and General CRO made against him.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Mr Millinder refused to accept the All Proceedings Order which was made against him, and continued to send emails to judges and counsel, alleging corruption and perverting the course of justice, amongst other things.

The Solicitor General therefore bought subsequent committal proceedings for contempt of court against Mr Millinder (HM Solicitor General v Millinder [2022] EWHC 2832 (Admin). Mr Millinder was found guilty of contempt of court and sentenced to 15 months’ imprisonment in November 2022.

Whilst it can be frustrating when your opponent brings repeated applications or claims which are totally without merit, there are procedures in place to deal with these individuals.

For more information about the Dispute Resolution services we offer to both individuals and businesses, visit our web pages below:

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