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Home > Judgments > 2019 archive

Maughan v Wilmot [2019] EWHC 2765 (Fam)

General civil restraint order, costs orders, and injunctions under the Protection from Harassment Act 1977 (which included protection for the applicant’s solicitor and barrister) granted in one of the worst cases of vexatious litigation misconduct Mostyn J had ever encountered.

These were extremely long-running proceedings arising from the ill-fated marriage of the parties which ended in 1999. Since then, there had been dozens of hearings before numerous judges. There was no doubt that the respondent was an exceptionally vexatious litigant. Mostyn J made an extended civil restraint order against him in April 2014, which was subsequently extended to January 2020. The order had not been effective to restrain the respondent's vexatious conduct.

The respondent had not confined his vexations to these proceedings, receiving (for example) an extended civil restraint order in 2017 following an extremely protracted and toxic dispute with his local planning authority.

The respondent had continued his campaign against his wife, his children, and his wife's legal representatives. He had continued to bombard the court with emails and spurious applications. He made an utterly meritless application to the Administrative Court seeking judicial review of Mostyn J's decision to appoint a receiver back in 2014. In blatant breach of an injunction made restraining him from communicating with the applicant's solicitor via her domestic email address, the respondent had sent dozens of messages.

The applications before Mostyn J sought the following relief:

1. An order that the applicant's actual costs incurred be summarily assessed and paid to her, and that provision be made to cover her anticipated implementation costs.

2. An order that the receiver's actual costs incurred be summarily assessed and paid to him, and that provision be made to cover his anticipated implementation costs.

3. An order permitting and authorising the transfer of the respondent's pension to Curtis Banks where the respondent's SIPP was held and which was under the authority of the receiver.

4. An order permitting the receiver to disinvest and pay out the sums necessary to satisfy the costs orders.

5. A general civil restraint order for 2 years.

6. An order pursuant to the Protection from Harassment Act 1977 restraining the respondent from harassing the applicant, the children, the applicant's solicitor and the applicant's barrister.

7. An extension of the existing freezing order.

Mostyn J considered the costs orders and concluded that the respondent's conduct had been at the top end of misconduct for the purposes of CPR 44.2(4)(a). It had been abysmal and an order for costs was fully justified. Mostyn J made costs orders in respect of (1) and (2). (3) was unopposed. An order in respect of (4) was granted. The freezing order application sought to freeze £100,000 to allow some headroom over the £68,307 caught by the costs orders. Mostyn J granted that amount as he pessimistically apprehended that the respondent would engage in more vexatious conduct generating further costs on the part of the applicant and the receiver.

Mostyn J was fully satisfied that the criterion for a general civil restraint order was satisfied. This was one of the worst cases of vexatious litigation misconduct he had ever encountered. The extended order had not worked therefore a general order was amply justified. The order was to last until 21.10.21.

It was not reasonable to expect the applicant to return to court every two years to renew the general order. This case cried out for an indefinite civil proceedings order which is made at the suit of the Attorney General and would be heard by a Divisional Court of the QBD. Mostyn J directed that a copy of the judgment be supplied to the Attorney General and asked he give careful consideration to making that application.

As to the application for an order under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, there was no doubt that the respondent had grossly harassed the applicant, their children and her legal representatives. Mostyn J was satisfied that he had full power to validate the application which had been technically issued in the wrong division of the High Court and granted the application in the terms sought.

Since distributing the judgment in draft, the respondent's solicitor-advocate made an application for 'amplification' of the judgement and permission to appeal. An advocate is not entitled to seek further and better particulars of a judgment. The provision is confined to permitting advocates to draw attention to material omissions or obvious errors so that they may be repaired before the matter proceeds to an appeal. The respondent's solicitor-advocate was seeking to take points which he did not argue before but which he should have done, or to reargue points which had already been rejected. Both applications were refused. 


Summary by Victoria Flowers, barrister, Harcourt Chambers

You can read the full judgment of Maughan v Wilmot [2019] EWHC 2765 (Fam) on BAILII