The High Court has slapped an extended civil restraint order (ECRO) on a man who claimed the application was an attempt “to legitimise” a law firm’s attempt to defraud him.
The unfounded claim was one of many that Martin Philcox made following the dismissal of his daughter from a firm of High Court enforcement officers.
Mrs Justice O’Farrell said that Mr Philcox refused “to countenance the possibility” that north-west firm Harrison Drury simply made a mistake in initially including VAT of £26,185 in its statement of costs while acting for the successful defendants in the latest litigation pursued by Mr Philcox.
A month after submitting this, the firm filed an amended statement identical in all respects save for the deletion of the VAT.
Senior Master Fontaine then made an order for the costs to be subject to a detailed assessment and ordered Mr Philcox to make a payment on account of £10,000.
The judge recorded how Mr Philcox had acted for his daughter in unsuccessful unfair dismissal proceedings on behalf of his daughter and another former employee of CGDM Ltd.
He subsequently made unsuccessful complaints to a host of other bodies – including the police, HM Revenue & Customs and Lord Chancellor – about the company and also two of its staff, Andrew Wilson and Karl Harrison.
The Crown Prosecution Service took over and discontinued private prosecutions that Mr Philcox tried to bring.
His most recent applications involving Mr Wilson and Mr Harrison, represented by Harrison Drury, were dismissed as being wholly without merit.
Senior Master Fontaine found that his motivation was not as a matter of public interest but a vendetta against the former employers of his daughter.
O’Farrell J rejected his appeal and then found that the conditions were met to impose a two-year ECRO, as sought by the respondents.
She said Mr Philcox contended that their aim was in fact to “legitimise an attempt by the respondents’ solicitor to defraud [him]” of the £26,185.
The judge said: “He refuses to countenance the possibility that a mistake was made in the initial statement of costs which was subsequently corrected.”
In reaching her decision to make the ECRO, she noted evidence that Mr Philcox had a history of pursuing litigation in his way, including an attempt some years ago to bring proceedings in the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal against a council solicitor on the other side of a case. This was dismissed for providing no prima facie case.
O’Farrell J said: “The applicant has noted in his written submissions that a common feature of the [old cases] is that they involved allegations that one or more solicitors had abused their positions as officers of the court.
“However, the applicant refuses to engage with the respondents’ argument that those allegations were rejected by the courts in each case as wholly unsubstantiated and therefore demonstrate a pattern of behaviour that constitutes an irrational refusal to take ‘no’ for an answer.”
The judge concluded: “I am satisfied that an objective assessment of the risk which the applicant poses demonstrates that he will, if unrestrained, issue further claims or make further applications which are an abuse of the court’s process.
“The risk is clear and obvious from the applicant’s history of making unfounded allegations of fraud or misconduct, pursuing such allegations through numerous legal avenues, appealing or applying to set aside any adverse orders, and ignoring the findings of judges, tribunals, the CPS and other regulatory bodies that his allegations are without merit…
“The evidence indicates that he intends to pursue the respondents by whatever means are open to him.”