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Litigant in person threatened opposing lawyers with violence

Knowles: Applications totally without merit

A High Court judge has expressed concern that a litigant in person has threatened violence against lawyers for the people he is suing while dismissing a bid to disqualify the solicitors from acting.

Mr Justice Julian Knowles said [1] Raj Pal Senna has also been warned to temper his language, which “seems to have had little effect” – last week, an email to him and Mr Justice Warby accused them of being in contempt of court and demanded that they “stop taking the piss”.

Mr Senna is bringing two actions over alleged business ventures with four defendants, the third of whom is his former girlfriend. Scottish firm Brodies is acting for three of them, while barrister Douglas Cochran acted before the court for the third defendant, instructed by Bar pro bono charity Advocate.

Julian Knowles J recounted that, in 1998, the claimant was convicted under the name of Gurkirat Singh Dhanota for importing Class A drugs and sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment. He entered into “considerable litigation” whilst in prison.

By December 2011, he had been released on licence and then recalled to prison three times, and in 2011 was made subject to an extended civil restraint order following yet more failed judicial review applications.

In 2017, following a series of applications and claims which were held to be totally without merit, a second two-year extended civil restraint order was imposed.

The judge said Mr Senna had refused to take part in the virtual hearing and had corresponded directly with him and other judges despite being told not to. He has also frequently made or threatened applications for judges to recuse themselves as he conducts litigation.

As well as the bad language, “more concerningly, the claimant’s skeleton argument for this hearing threatened that he would ‘take the law into his own hands’ and administer ‘old school justice’ to a named solicitor with Brodies LLP, ‘who will have no trouble understanding’.

“I understood this to be a threat of violence, and so I thought it appropriate to draw the solicitor’s attention to it.”

Julian Knowles J said this was “not the only time” the claimant has threatened violence against other parties’ legal representatives, having said he would pay Mr Cochran “a visit at his Manchester office if he wants to try to bully me. Lets [sic] see how it works out in person”.

The claimant has also made threats against the third defendant, who has said she is afraid of him. In response to her allegation that he was a “stalker”, he said in an email: “Making such serious allegation is the reason women get sulphuric acid thrown in thier [sic] faces.”

He told the first defendant that he would “come up there a [sic] rip your face off”.

The judge had several applications from Mr Senna to deal with, including that Brodies be disqualified from acting.

Julian Knowles J said: “I agree with the defendants’ argument that this application is misconceived and meritless. The claimant has not set forth any coherent legal basis upon which such a claim could be sustained. He has merely asserted in various places that the fourth defendant is disqualified or has been guilty of fraud and so cannot act…

“It seems to me that the claimant’s ambition is to deprive the first, second, and fifth defendants of their competent and well-resourced chosen legal representatives.

“And, as those defendants point out… the claimant has also adopted this tactic with respect to the third defendant’s pro bono counsel, by threatening to seek costs and damages against him personally and by threatening to turn up at his chambers.

“I can readily assume that [Brodies] is aware of its responsibilities, and that should it find itself with a conflict of interest, then it would cease to act for any other defendant with whom it had a conflict. There is nothing to substantiate the claimant’s accusations of wrongdoing against it.”

The judge went on to reject all the applications and certify that they were totally without merit.