Ministry of Justice v Ellis

Reference: [2018] EWCA Civ 2686

Court: Court of Appeal

Judge: Davis LJ, Moylan LJ

Date of judgment: 12 Jun 2018

Summary: Suspended order for committal and general civil restraint order upheld

Appearances: Aidan Eardley (Respondent) 

Instructing Solicitors: Government Legal Department

Facts

The Appellant was a former solicitor who was struck off in 2013. In March 2016 Senior Master Fontaine made an order in which she  recorded that the Appellant had been issuing claim forms and application notices on behalf of others and that these claims had been abusive and/or devoid of merit. Her order restrained the Appellant from issuing claims on behalf of others or from assisting others to bring claims “in contravention of the Legal Services Act 2007”.

In February 2018 May J found the Appellant to be in contempt of court on the grounds that he had breached Senior Master Fontaine’s order on 7 occasions. She made a suspended order for committal and also imposed a 2-year General Civil Restraint Order (‘GCRO’) prohibiting the Appellant from issuing claims or making applications in the High Court or County Court or procuring others to do so.

The Appellant appealed on unclear grounds which appeared to allege that May J should have recused herself and was unqualified to determine the committal application.

Issue

The Court of Appeal dealt swiftly with the grounds advanced by the Appellant and then went on to consider whether May J was entitled to make the findings of fact that she made, whether she was right to decide that the Appellant had breached the Senior Master’s order, whether the sentence was within the bracket of appropriate penalties, and whether she had been justified in imposing a GCRO.

Comment

Appeal dismissed. There were no grounds for recusal; May J was qualified to hear the application and she was entitled to reach the conclusions and make the orders that she did.