HC Deb 25 May 2000 vol 350 cc1105-6
30. Mr. David Drew (Stroud)

How many applications with regard to vexatious litigants the Law Officers have dealt with over the past 12 months. [122432]

The Solicitor-General (Mr. Ross Cranston)

In the past 12 months the High Court has considered 11 applications made by the Law Officers under section 42 of the Supreme Court Act 1981. Of those 11 applications, nine resulted in orders being made, one application was refused and one, although heard, awaits judgment. In the same period, the employment appeals tribunal made two orders under section 33 of the Industrial Tribunals Act 1996, which prevents applications to the tribunal.

Mr. Drew

I thank my hon. and learned Friend for that reply. Obviously, it is not without interest for the House, given this week's proceedings.

What are the implications for the individuals concerned? Clearly, if an order is served on someone, that can lead to considerable restriction of his or her activities. Is that compatible with the European convention on human rights?

The Solicitor-General

The Attorney-General and I give these applications close consideration when they come before us. One of my constituents is a vexatious litigant, and he constantly reminds me, in the nicest possible way, of the implications that the order has for him.

We carefully consider such applications, which must then be considered by two High Court judges sitting in the divisional court. On the human rights aspect, Strasbourg has considered the matter on two occasions and said that the orders are compatible with the ECHR. The test is very high. The statute requires habitual and persistent behaviour, and it must be reasonable in the circumstances for the court to make that order. As the figures that I gave my hon. Friend indicate, the number of applications is not significant.

An order does not prevent vexatious litigants from litigating, but they have to seek the leave of the court to bring an action.

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