Attorney General v Barker

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtQueen's Bench Division (Administrative Court)
JudgeMR JUSTICE KLEVAN
Judgment Date16 February 2000
Judgment citation (vLex)[2000] EWHC J0216-2
Date16 February 2000
Docket NumberCO/4380/98

[2000] EWHC J0216-2

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE

QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION

CROWN OFFICE LIST

DIVISIONAL COURT

Royal Courts of Justice

The Strand

London

Before:

The Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales

(Lord Bingham of Cornhill)

Mr Justice Klevan

CO/4380/98

Between:
Her Majesty's Attorney General
Applicant
and
Paul Evan John Barker
Respondent

MR ROBIN TAM (instructed by the Treasury Solicitor) appeared on behalf of THE APPLICANT

THE RESPONDENT appeared in person

Wednesday 16 February 2000

THE LORD CHIEF JUSTICE
1

: The Attorney General seeks a civil proceedings order under section 42 of the Supreme Court Act 1981 against Mr Paul Barker. It is unnecessary for present purposes to recite the familiar terms of section 42(1)(a) and (b), save to point out that before the court can make an order under the section it must be satisfied that the statutory precondition of an order is fulfilled, namely that the person against whom the order is sought has habitually and persistently and without any reasonable ground instituted vexatious civil proceedings or made vexatious applications whether in the High Court or any inferior court and whether against the same person or against different persons.

2

If that condition is not satisfied, the court has no discretion to make a civil proceedings order. If the condition is satisfied the court has a discretion to make such an order, but it is not obliged to do so. Whether, where the condition is satisfied, the court will exercise its discretion to make an order, will depend on the court's assessment of where the balance of justice lies, taking account on the one hand of a citizen's prima facie right to invoke the jurisdiction of the civil courts and on the other the need to provide members of the public with a measure of protection against abusive and ill-founded claims. It is clear from section 42(3) that the making of an order operates not as an absolute bar to the bringing of further proceedings but as a filter.

3

The respondent, Mr Barker, lived from 1988 until August 1993 with a partner, Miss Jane Boyce. They had two children, a girl, "F", who was born on 4 April 1990 and who will soon be 10, and a boy, "T", who was born on 27 February 1992 and who will even sooner be 8.

4

The facts relating to Mr Barker and his partner and the children were set out at very considerable length by His Honour Judge Ansell in a judgment delivered on 3 November 1997. It is unnecessary and undesirable for present purposes to give more than the briefest summary.

5

In August 1993 Jane Boyce left Mr Barker with the children. By that stage their relationship had to a large extent broken down. Following the separation there were difficulties over contact and at the end of 1993 the children went to live with Mr Barker. There were continuing difficulties over contact and the mother felt that in all the circumstances it was better if she stopped seeing the children, although her own mother continued to do so. There was evidence that Mr Barker behaved in an aggressive, disruptive and abusive way and he found himself involved in altercations with the staff, the governors and some parents at the first school which the two children attended. He had a quarrel with the headmistress. He was banned from the school. He broke the ban and was warned by the police. In October 1996, following a further altercation, the children were withdrawn from that school and did not attend school again until the end of January 1997. At the new school further difficulties arose and there were real anxieties about various aspects of Mr Barker's upbringing of the children.

6

On 10 February 1997 His Honour Judge Connor made an emergency protection order in relation to the children who in August 1997 went to live with their mother. There were continuing difficulties in the arrangements for contact. Such was the brief background when on 3 November 1997 His Honour Judge Ansell sitting in the Watford County Court made a residence order in favour of the mother, ordered contact with the father, and made a prohibited steps order. We have his detailed judgment in the bundle, and note his conclusions at page 245 of that bundle, and his order at page 248, neither of which it is necessary to recite. It is, however, relevant to note that there was evidence, as the judge found, that Mr Barker was suffering from mental illness, and that may explain much of what took place.

7

On 15 December 1997, six weeks after the judge's order and judgment in the family proceedings, Mr Barker issued eight writs. Seven of those related directly or indirectly to the family proceedings; one concerned a negligence claim which had been made by Mr Barker against solicitors and which had been settled on terms which Mr Barker had come to regard as disadvantageous. The writs were issued against the chairman of the governors of the children's first school, against the solicitor who had advised Mr Barker in the family proceedings, against an officer of the Hertfordshire County Council Social Services Department, against the solicitor who had acted for Mr Barker in the successful negligence claim, against another officer of the Hertfordshire County Council Social Services Department, against the head teacher of the children's second school, against a third officer of the Hertfordshire County Council Social Services Department, and against yet a fourth officer of that department.

8

It is unnecessary for present purposes to go in detail into the minutiae of the claims made against each of these defendants, but it is relevant to give some indication of the tenor of these claims or some of them and the manner in which they were drafted. I take as an example the claim made against a Mr Kellett, an officer of the Hertfordshire County Council Social Services Department. The endorsement of the writ against him claimed negligence/damages and read:

"Tampering with Evidence

The letters of Steve Taylor of 11 December 1996 that a 'disclosure of papers order' shall reveal protecting Mrs Hallahan rather than putting the welfare of my children first

Telling his secretary to remove them from my bundle and then stating in an investigation that Andrea is 'conscientious, dedicated and most efficient member of staff. I do not doubt her honesty or integrity'."

9

The statement of claim, which was shorter than in many other actions, again bore the heading "Tampering with Evidence" and read:

"I refer to Barbara Barret's statement used in evidence in court (comprehensive assessment) Watford County Court, case No 97CC027 and Meg Carter's investigation into complaints, see writ of summons B1949 to be used in evidence in the Royal Courts of Justice and at my appeal of His Honour Judge Ansell's orders Watford County Court made on 29th October —November 3 1997.

Obviously I expect a documented report into the reasons for his absence from work following his statement to the Watford County Court to be used as evidence as all correspondence from him to me to be checked against access to records."

10

The other writs were of the same character.

11

The issue of those proceedings was only a beginning. Two days later, on 17 December 1997, Mr Barker issued eight more writs. The defendants in this case were the headmistress of the children's first school, His Honour Judge Ansell, the solicitor who had advised Mr Barker on his prospects of an action against the solicitor who had handled the negligence claim, the solicitor who had advised Mr Barker on the merits of a defamation claim against the headmistress of the children's first school, the solicitor who represented Mr Barker in the family proceedings, the Hertfordshire County Council County Secretary's Department, the Hertfordshire County Council Social Services Department, and the solicitor who had represented the children at the family hearing. Again a sample of the nature of these proceedings may be given. The endorsement of the writ against Judge Ansell was headed "Negligence/Damages" and read:

...

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