Ewing v News International & Ors

Reference: [2008] EWHC 1390 (QB)

Court: Queen's Bench Division

Judge: Coulson J

Date of judgment: 22 Jul 2008

Summary: Vexatious litigant - Leave to bring proceedings - Media organisations - Defamation - Libel - Harassment - Privacy - Chilling effect - Disproportionality

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Instructing Solicitors: Reynolds Porter Chamberlain and Foot Anstey for the Respondents


C, a vexatious litigant, appplied to bring two sets of proceedings against media organisations for various torts.


Whether to grant leave under s42(3) Supreme Court Act 1981 to allow C to institute procedings.


Leave denied. Three of the defendants were not the publishers of the newspapers concerned. As for the others, there was no real prospect of C succeeding; the claim was time-barred and there was no reason to disapply the limitation period and the claim was an abuse.


Of interest is Coulson J’s comment on the chilling effect, albeit in the context of very unusual facts where C has consistently refused to pay costs orders in the past. At [109] the Judge said,
‘Realistically, giving the claimant permission in this case to bring proceedings under s.42(3) may be tantamount to entering judgment against the defendants, because they may then conclude that, in all the circumstances, there was no commercial advantage to them in defending the claim. They would only incur costs in doing so, which costs, even if they won, they would not be able to recover. It might therefore be necessary for them to pay off the claimant, regardless of the rights and wrongs of the original story and no matter how strong their defence and the difficulties that the claimant faces in recovering anything other than nominal damages. In my judgment, such an outcome would be an abuse of the process of the courts.’