Using A General Civil Restraint Order Against Vexatious Litigant
Healys acted for the Trustee in Bankruptcy of Ms H, who was the subject of a bankruptcy order made in 2010 on the petition of the supervisor of her Individual Voluntary Arrangement (“IVA”). The IVA had been entered into by Ms H in 2003 as a means of annulling a previous bankruptcy order made in 2000. However, the supervisor petitioned for her bankruptcy on her failure to comply with the terms of her IVA.
Ms H contested the bankruptcy petition; however, the bankruptcy order was made. The bankruptcy order resulted in a series of applications and claims by Ms H and her former husband Mr P.
By late 2013, some 50 hearings had taken place. Most of them resulted from claims or applications made by Ms H and Mr P or their children acting on their behalf. Much of the litigation centred on a number of Properties that Ms H had pledged either absolutely or conditionally in her IVA. Of the many applications and claims brought by Ms H and Mr P, 3 were specifically marked by Judges as being totally without merit and a number of further applications were considered by the Trustee to have been wholly without merit and were relied upon as such for the purposes of a 2013 Civil Restraint Order (“CRO”) Hearing.
The Trustee instructed Healys to make an application for CROs against both Ms H and Mr P as it was clear that:
- If unrestrained, both would continue to make meritless and ill-conceived applications to prevent her Trustee from properly administering Ms H’s bankruptcy estate, including making payments to deserving creditors;
- They would continue to incur huge costs, entirely disproportionate to the value of Ms H’s estate;
- Court time, across all levels, would continue to be wasted to the detriment of other court users.
This application was made to the High Court in 2013. Extended CROs were made against both Ms H and Mr P by a High Court Judge.
Unfortunately, this did not stem the flow of litigation from Ms H and Mr P. A number of applications and claims were made before the CROs were granted (including one on the very day of the Hearing), presumably in anticipation of these orders.
Ms H and Mr P used others, most notably their children, to make applications on their behalf. This resulted in substantial costs being incurred. As a result Healys presented bankruptcy petitions against Ms H, Mr P and one of their daughters. The bankruptcy orders were made against all three.
Since the expiry of the CROs made in 2013, Ms H and Mr P have made at least 5 further applications to the court and a claim against the Trustee. Three of these applications were certified by a Judge as wholly without merit. The claim was struck out on terms akin to a CRO.
The previously established pattern whereby Mr P & Ms H refused to accept orders of the court, and continued to make applications without merit, continued. Following two further applications from Mr P & Ms H, one in the Bankruptcy Court and the other an application for permission to appeal, were dismissed in robust terms. A further application to set aside an order of a District Judge was struck out.
An application was therefore made for Civil Restraint Orders against both Mr P and Ms H.
At the CRO hearing in the High Court, The Honourable Judge remarked on the extensive background to the matter and to the numerous applications that had been struck out or dismissed as being without merit.
Summing up, the Judge stated that the behaviour of Ms H and Mr P was “characteristic of the vexatious litigant”. He stated that there was “no doubt at all that a general CRO is appropriate in this case against both Mr P & Ms H who have demonstrated that without such an Order they will continue to make applications without merit, take up the valuable resources of the court, and cause costs to be incurred by those who are unjustly made targets of their claims”. The Judge therefore made a general Civil Restraint Order against both and further ordered that the order shall include the making of any application through a surrogate 3rd party including any servant or agent or a family member.
Mr P & Mrs H were ordered to pay the Trustee’s costs.
If you have any queries about Civil Restraint Orders, or any other more general insolvency related query, please contact our insolvency team.
About the author: Michael’s background is in personal and corporate insolvency, as well as debt collection for corporate clients. He is part of the firm’s Insolvency team.