High Court imposes restraint order on “obsessional” litigant who targeted lawyers

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6 July 2016


Google case: “disturbing matters” raised by claimant, says judge

The High Court has imposed an extended civil restraint order (ECRO) on an “obsessional” libel litigant who sent over 100 text messages to the mobile phone of a partner at Pinsent Masons acting for Google.

Mr Justice Eady said counsel for Google, Catrin Evans QC, had characterised litigant in person Camille Saskia Richardson’s behaviour as “obsessional” and “the evidence seems to me to plainly bear that out”.

Eady J went on: “It causes inconvenience, and indeed a degree of harassment, against those to whom her threats and remarks are directed; that is to say, personnel employed by Google Inc, the legal representatives of [Google] and some court staff.”

He said David Barker, a partner at Pinsent Masons, had “explained the nature of the communications which have been directed towards his firm and the sheer volume (received at all times of day and night)”.

Eady J said: “So far as Mr Barker himself is concerned, there have been, I am told, more than 100 text messages to his mobile phone.”

The judge said his attention had been drawn to “disturbing matters raised by the claimant”, not only to Mr Barker but also to Ms Evans, and “references to the claimant’s own personal history”.

Eady J said Ms Richardson had also made complaints to the professional bodies about “inappropriate and insensitive statements” from lawyers representing Google at a hearing at Manchester District Registry.

“There have been complaints to the professional bodies and I am told that the complaint to the Bar Standards Board (BSB) has been already summarily dismissed,” he said.

“It is not only a question of distress or embarrassment caused to the individuals concerned, or a question of the cost which is incurred in dealing with such matters.

“The point has also been made, particularly in relation to court staff, that when their time is taken up in dealing with them, the time available for other court users and other duties is correspondingly reduced.”

Delivering judgment in Richardson v Google UK [2016] EWHC 1534 (QB), Eady J said Ms Evans argued that the claimant would continue to behave in this “obsessional and vexatious” manner unless the restraint order was made.

The judge referred to claims and applications against the defendant which had been found by the court to be “totally without merit”, findings made by Master Kay QC, Mr Justice Warby, Mr Justice Dingemans and Lord Justice Sharp.

“She has issued three sets of proceedings and numerous applications concerning or touching upon the same subject matter; namely, whether this defendant was liable in law for publishing the content complained of on the Blogger and Google Plus services. There is no need to go into that content.”

He said Ms Richardson had repeatedly made new claims and applications, including against other parties, such as Google Inc and the University of Glasgow.

In particular he said Ms Evans had highlighted a pattern of “issuing and discontinuance”, with Ms Richardson issuing and discontinuing, or threatening to discontinue, four times.

On cost, Eady J said Ms Richardson’s outstanding liability to Google UK and Google Inc currently stood at over £100,000.

“The total of costs incurred of course exceeds that by some considerable margin, as Mr Barker makes clear in his second witness statement. Because the claimant is impecunious and able to claim dispensation in respect of the issuance of court proceedings, there is currently no incentive for her to curtail her troublesome and obsessional behaviour: that is why an ECRO is now sought.

“The claimant has indicated in communications with the court, and with the first defendant’s solicitors, that she is without funds, to all intents and purposes, and that she has no intention of paying the costs which have already been ordered against her.”

Mr Justice Eady said it was a “sad story in many ways”, but the evidence was clear and the grant of the ECRO requested by Google, for the maximum period of two years, was “amply justified”.

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