Man held in contempt by Gibraltar court

Terence Ewing remanded for two days for 'vexatious' libel claim against the Sunday Times

The Supreme Court of Gibraltar has found that a claim brought by Terence Ewing against the Sunday Times in respect of a matter already litigated in three other jurisdictions was a serious abuse of process and a criminal contempt of court, remanding Mr Ewing in custody for two days until he gave a permanent undertaking not to issue any further proceedings in Gibraltar.

The claim was brought on the basis of an article in the international edition of the Sunday Times in Gibraltar – which was estimated to have had a circulation of 282 copies on the date of publication. In his judgment dated 17 November 2014 granting the Sunday Times’s application to strike out Mr Ewing’s claim, Jack J noted that Mr Ewing had been declared a vexatious litigant in England and had been refused permission to bring a claim in respect of the same article in England by Coulson J on 22 July 2008 ([2008] EWHC 1390 (QB)). Mr Ewing had then brought claims in respect of the same article in Scotland and Northern Ireland. In total, he had been told by nine other judges in three other jurisdictions that the claim had no reasonable prospect of success. Jack J also noted that Mr Ewing had no connection with Gibraltar and the only time that he had ever visited Gibraltar previously was to issue the claim form.

Given that the Sunday Times’s costs would, in practice, be wholly irrecoverable, Jack J formed the view that the only practical means of protecting the Sunday Times would be by use of his power to commit for contempt, and held that bringing a claim which was such a serious abuse of the court’s process could amount to a criminal contempt in the face of the court. The Sunday Times had not requested this finding of contempt. The matter was adjourned for 2 days in order for Mr Ewing to instruct counsel and make representations on contempt, and Mr Ewing was held in custody pending the next hearing because of the risk that he would leave the jurisdiction.

On 19 November 2014, after hearing representations from Mr Ewing’s counsel, Jack J found that the claim had indeed amounted to a criminal contempt of court . However, in light of Mr Ewing’s indication that he was willing to undertake never to issue proceedings in Gibraltar again and the fact that he had already spent 2 days in custody, Jack J accepted the undertaking and made no further order, allowing Mr Ewing to be released.

Hassans International Law Firm acted for Times Newspapers Ltd.