[View without highlighting]
[Printable RTF version]
||Neutral Citation Number:  EWHC 561 (Admin)
||Case No: CO/9969/2006
IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE
QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION
||Royal Courts of Justice
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL
B e f o r e :
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON
MR JUSTICE LLOYD JONES
|| EDWARD ELLIS
||- and -
||THE LAW SOCIETY
Edward Ellis appeared in person
Iain Miller (instructed by Bevan Brittan) for the Respondent
Hearing dates: 11th March 2008
HTML VERSION OF JUDGMENT
Crown Copyright ©
Lord Justice Leveson :
- On 2 November 2006, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal ("the Tribunal") heard a complaint brought against Edward Ellis, the Appellant, and determined that he should be suspended indefinitely from the Roll of Solicitors. The written findings of the Tribunal are dated 11 January 2007. He now appeals pursuant to the provisions of section 49(1)(a) of the Solicitors Act 1974.
- Mr Ellis was admitted to the Roll of Solicitors on 16 January 1978 and, at the time of the hearing, practised in partnership in Folkestone under the name of Ellis & Jessup. He was also recorded as having been a partner in its predecessor firm, Ellis and Curran.
- On or about 17 November 2002, a client, FM, complained to the Office for the Supervision of Solicitors as it then was, concerning the manner in which Mr Ellis' firm had dealt with the estate of her mother. Following a lengthy investigation, in a detailed decision dated 17 May 2005, an Adjudicator of the Law Society decided that the services which had been provided did not reach the standard which it was reasonable to expect of a solicitor and directed that Mr Ellis pay to her the sum of £2,000 in compensation, in addition limiting the costs owed by the estate.
- Mr Ellis challenged the decision of the Adjudicator observing (in a letter dated 8 June 2005) that "it would be wholly inappropriate for the Law Society to compensate me for the fraudulent abuse of power the handling of this case represents". This observation has set the tone for all that has followed and is reflected in his request for a review, in which he observed (in part referring to another matter with which he was concerned):
"The decision to make consumer complaints a legal process was not reasonable by objective standards. This whole regime is to be dismantled. ... A significant number of people know that legal proceedings are in progress that will reverse the loss of chance precedent and dismantle consumer complaints legal processes. .... Loss of chance and the consumer complaints regime for legal services were designed to deter the provision of legal services. It was part of the centralisation of political control. The rejection of the European Constitution has terminated the process of centralisation. The executive authorities introduced extradition arrangements to oppress resisters to the European Constitution. Judges and politicians are now faced without the constitution and clear evidence that they conspired to force it on the people without consent. They had set up and tested the processing of political prisoners. The people found out. I have taken an initiative for the people. The process is under my control. The people can try by jury cases of corruption by the executive in which judges are implicated..."
- The Adjudication Panel decided that the appeal raised no new issues and expressed itself satisfied that the decision reached at first instance was correct. Directions were made requiring Ellis and Jessup to pay the compensation and limit costs as determined by the Adjudicator.
- Mr Ellis was not satisfied with this review and intimated an intention to apply for judicial review. He did so in a 35 page document headed "The balance of the constitution of England and Wales", lodged on 30 November 2005 which covered ground far wider than the Adjudication. On 2 December 2005, Bennett J ordered that he file grounds setting out the dates of each finding of which complaint was made, annexing the findings complained of and, in respect of each finding, the grounds of complaint not to exceed more than 2 sides of A4 paper. Nothing was provided.
- The substantive application came before Goldring J who observed that it was extremely difficult to follow and consisted, among other things, of allegations of corruption against the judiciary and very many others. He said that much of the application was wholly incomprehensible. Mr Ellis did not attend and, considering the case on its merits, the judge refused permission. I shall return to another aspect of this judgment later but it is important to underline that no attempt was made to take that refusal further to the Court of Appeal.
- The case was thus effectively at an end. Mr Ellis had lost and subject to an application pursuant to R (on the application of Thompson) v. The Law Society  EWCA Civ 167,  2 All ER 113 to review the decision (which was not sought and would hardly have succeeded in the light of the failed application for judicial review), he had exhausted all avenues open to him to appeal. As a solicitor, it fell to him to observe the order. In the meantime, the failure to observe the order was referred to the Interventions and Disciplinary Unit and on 4 April 2006 application was made to the Tribunal that Mr Ellis be required to answer complaints made against him and for a direction for enforcement of the order of the Adjudication Panel.
- The complaint covered ground wider than the failure to comply with the Adjudication. It was to the effect that Mr Ellis had been guilty of conduct unbefitting a solicitor in that:
1.1 He has failed to promptly comply with a direction made by the Office pursuant to section 37A and Schedule 1A of the Solicitors Act 1974 (as amended).
1.2 He has failed to reply promptly substantively and with relevance to Law Society correspondence, and
1.3 Has directed correspondence in inappropriate and/or offensive terms to the Law Society and/or a complainant and/or third parties, and
1.4 He has written correspondence in terms that are derogatory of others including member of the judiciary.
- In addition to failing to make the compensation payment, the Law Society relied on the way in which Mr Ellis had dealt with the complainant and the Society and, in particular, the tenor of the correspondence. Thus, by way of example, he had written to his client (on 9th June 2003) in a letter that was clearly important bearing in mind that he copied it to the Law Society, observing that he had made her brother laugh by commenting that one of the ways of getting money would be to "murder Michael and get away with it" but going on that it was "an abuse for her to totally fail as a client". On 30th September, he wrote to the Law Society suggesting that he was the subject of improper pressure, following up with other communications in florid terms (on 18th August 2004 "the whole process is corruptly managed"; on 9th June 2005 referring to the Society's "fraudulent abuse of power").
- In other litigation in which Mr Ellis was personally involved, again, he had given rise to real concern on the part of the judiciary. On 12th May 2005 His Honour Judge Mitchell (who was dealing with proceedings between the Inland Revenue and Mr Ellis) wrote to the Law Society. He was sufficiently concerned about Mr Ellis' state of mind that he adjourned so that consideration could be given to the appointment of a litigation friend describing his submissions "as the ramblings of an apparently deluded mind": the letter raised the question of his fitness to practise and deal with his clients' affairs in the manner expected of a reasonable and competent solicitor. On 23rd May 2005, having seen correspondence in an appeal brought by Mr Ellis against the decision of a Magistrates Court in relation to his directorship of a company, His Honour Judge Webb also wrote endorsing Judge Mitchell's concern. The documentation submitted by Mr Ellis entirely supports these concerns.
- By way of further specific example of a substantial exchange of correspondence, the Law Society also relied on an mail addressed to it dated 30th June 2005. It is important to underline that this still concerned the complaint about his conduct of FM's litigation (observing that it was "unreasonable by objective standards to entertain the complaint at all"), but going on:
"The rejection of the European Constitution has terminated the process of centralisation. The executive authorities introduced extradition arrangement to oppress resisters to the European Constitution. Judges and politicians are now faced without the constitution and clear evidence that they conspired to force it on the people without consent. They had set up and tested the processing of political prisoners. The people found out. I have taken an initiative for the people. The process is under my control. The people can try by jury cases of corruption by the executive in which judges are implicated. The people have given the judiciary the choice of facing the jury trials or surrendering voluntarily to the people. .... Last year I commenced judicial review proceedings against the Law Society. It was an opportunity for the judiciary to volunteer to deal with the issues. The[y] refused. The President of the Law Society was given the opportunity to deal with the issues. He did not do so. ... I will be making a decision about the future of the Law Society. The staff have a chance to influence that decision. The regulations are irrelevant now. The staff can make decisions that are reasonable by objective standards."
- The complaints about the judiciary and the constitution that are unconnected with the adjudication relating to FM appear to arise, at least in large part, from litigation in which Mr Ellis had been concerned in a professional capacity relating to extradition proceedings concerning Mr Mark Thomas Frederick Convery. An appeal against his extradition originally came before Tuckey LJ and Field J who adjourned it for want of time to Maurice Kay LJ and Newman J who determined the matter on 22nd February 2005: see Convery v. The High Court of Rotterdam  EWHC 566. Mr Ellis' participation (and his wish to be permitted to make oral representations on behalf of his client) caused Maurice Kay LJ to observe, at paragraph 8:
"I regret to say that Mr Ellis' documents are as partisan and immoderate as can ever have emanated from a legal practitioner for use in these courts. They are in part incoherent and they contain a great deal that is irrelevant. It is plain from any reading of them that what excites Mr Ellis is the Extradition Act 2003 itself, which he describes in his latest skeleton argument as "a total abdication of responsibility for the individual by all authority. It amounts to a policy of 'hand over the body to a foreign power with no questions asked'". There and elsewhere, and for the brief time for which we allowed him to seek a right to make submissions today, he repeatedly attacks the Act, the Government and Parliament for having enacted it, and, on a wholesale basis, the judiciary. It is his opinion that there is called into question the fitness to sit of every single judge in this jurisdiction for as long as this Act remains on the statute book. In addressing us briefly, he used expressions such as "across the country we are outraged" and "it brings into question the integrity of the judiciary as a whole" -- the "it" there referred to, as I understand it, is the willingness of courts to operate the 2003 Act."
- Having refused to permit Mr Ellis to make submissions on behalf of that applicant because of his "obvious partiality and unreliability" observing that his skeleton argument was "something of an intemperate rant", Maurice Kay LJ commented that when Mr Convery represented himself "having been put in that difficult position" that is to say by Mr Ellis "he did the best he possibly could".
- Although the Law Society do not complain about Mr Ellis' conduct in these extradition proceedings, that they (and the observations of Judges Mitchell and Webb) provided a basis for Mr Ellis's continued concerns is clear from a body of correspondence which is relied upon in support of the complaints which are made against all six judges. As to Tuckey and Maurice Kay LJJ, Newman and Field JJ, he suggests that the judiciary "are in denial of the responsibility to control corruption but committed to achieving the political objectives of a corrupt executive", that "a decision of a judge has aided abetted counselled or procured each corrupt decision" and that "the people will not tolerate the failure of the judiciary to observe the corruption controls". He specifically accuses Judges Mitchell and Webb of collusion in corruption and having a concealed motive for making orders.
- Neither has this approach abated. In the judicial review proceedings following the unsuccessful attempt to appeal the Adjudication (determined on 27th January 2006 and to which I have referred in paragraph 7 of this judgment), Goldring J observed that the documents submitted in that application echoed the observations of Maurice Kay LJ cited above. As will become apparent later in this judgment, this approach and attitude continue to this day.
The Tribunal Hearing
- With effect from 23rd October 2006, some ten days before these complaints came before the Tribunal, Mr Ellis had complied with the directions in relation to FM with the result that the application for enforcement was withdrawn. In relation to the other complaints, Mr Ellis applied to admit three lever arch files of documents that related to his petition to the Master of the Rolls to renew his Practising Certificate which he said demonstrated systematic perversion of the course of justice, in general by the Law Society and, in particular, by Mr Andrew Miller, the solicitor applicant who was employed by the Law Society. He said that the Society first had to determine the integrity of the Law Society's processes and the personal integrity of Mr Miller.
- Mr Miller opposed the application on the basis that they had not been served under the Rules although he had seen some in connection with other proceedings which he said were not relevant to the present proceedings. The Tribunal agreed and refused to admit the documents; it concluded that Mr Ellis had not given any satisfactory explanation of their relevance and had, in any event, presented them well out of time.
- The Tribunal then examined the allegations and the documentation. Mr Ellis defended the proceedings on the basis that he was entitled not to comply with the Law Society's directions because he believed the decision invalid because of corruption of the processes; in any event, he had other overriding matters to deal with. Although he had not replied promptly to correspondence, he should not have been troubled with it. He believed it inevitable that offence would be taken by one party or the other in contentious litigation; he believed that the test should be subjective and what he had written was not subjectively offensive. As to the comments concerning the judiciary, he said that he could prove perversion of the course of justice: judges had been fabricating matters to interfere with the general election of 2005.
- The Tribunal found the allegations substantiated. From what Mr Ellis had said, it concluded that the relevant facts were not in issue (albeit that he had sought to justify what he had done). Finding much of what he said to be incoherent, it placed particular weight on the documentary evidence. As to sentence, describing the case as "very sad ... and a difficult one to conduct", it observed:
"The Tribunal had formed the view that while the allegations which had been found proved against the Respondent were not such that it would normally consider a penalty which rendered a solicitor unable to continue in practice, nevertheless it was the appropriate penalty in the Respondent's case. The Tribunal viewed particularly seriously the Respondent's inappropriate and offensive remarks to a number of persons, including members of the judiciary, which, the Tribunal believed, brought the profession into disrepute. It was apparent from what the Respondent had said to the Tribunal today that he holds to these views even now and is continuing to make wholly inappropriate and deeply offensive remarks to and about those involved in the legal system and judicial processes. The Tribunal can see no foundation for these remarks. In these circumstances, the Tribunal has concluded that the only appropriate penalty must be suspension indefinitely from practice."
- The Tribunal also ordered Mr Ellis to pay costs which were fixed (against a claimed sum of £5,021) in the sum of £4000.
- Mr Ellis appealed against the decision of the Tribunal on the grounds of breach of the rules of natural justice, breach of the Human Rights Act 1998 (on the basis that decisions must not be unfair, irrational, biased or disproportionate) and breach of the rule against unfairness to the extent that it amounts to inhuman and degrading treatment (that is to say, stopping from practice a lawyer who has exposed criminal activities).
- Mr Ellis did not particularise these grounds but, on 30 March 2007, applied to administer lengthy interrogatories on "the Law Society prosecutor". The witness statement and interrogatories cover some 30 pages of close typed script but the reason that he gives for applying for the order is contained on the face of the application as:
"The British, Dutch and other executive authorities conspired to pervert the course of justice to achieve inequity, governance delivered by the European Constitution. They did so by suppressing evidence that made viable the Europe Enquiry policy of Europe united with equity governance. The British procured from the Dutch an offer to extradite and [sic] Englishman, and maliciously prosecute him and a Dutchman on condition that the British collaborated in suppression of the evidence that disproved the prosecution case. The British accepted. Many English judges participated in the process."
- It is clear that this refers back to the extradition proceedings which were not at the centre of the allegation that initiated the Law Society's disciplinary process which was, of course, to do with the complaint made by FM. In any event, the application for interrogatories came before Collins J who dismissed it as totally without merit and observed that impropriety was alleged by the judiciary in the Chancery Court in relation to a probate case for "systematically perverting the course of justice". He went on:
"There are various other improprieties alleged. In fact there were proceedings before the Divisional Court where Mr Ellis represented an individual who was to be extradited to Holland. Perhaps I can indicate the flavour of some of the interrogatories that he is seeking. One of the questions is: "Do you acknowledge that the offence of causing offence breaches the rules of natural justice?" Also, "Do you acknowledge that Kay LJ and Newman J and Tuckey LJ and other judges, Crown prosecutors, the Met Police Chief Constable, other officers and the Force solicitor, customs officers and the prosecutor, other officers and the legal representatives of the Law Society perverted the course of justice?" There are many paragraphs of questions like that. That gives the flavour of this completely hopeless, nonsensical and abusive application which should never have troubled the court."
The Hearing of the Appeal
- After this inauspicious interlocutory hearing, Mr Ellis did not modify his approach. He commenced the hearing before this Court by a reference to accountability and a requirement that the members of the court identify themselves so that he could confirm that they were whom the court list suggested: he justified that request on the basis that at another hearing, a judge pretended that a magistrate had not been substituted prior to a hearing. By reference to documents giving different dates for the hearing of an application (which I believe that he ascribed to conspiracy rather than error), he said that there was no quality control in the process.
- I can do no better than set out parts of my note to provide a flavour of the way in which Mr Ellis then advanced his submissions:
"The issue is the integrity of the processes. The grievance we, the people, have is that we have no opportunity to test evidence. The cases in which testing evidence is most important is when we find office, particularly high office, used to pervert the course of justice. So far as I am concerned the function of a lawyer is to discover the truth and reason to an objective standard."
- He went on to assert that he had identified a fraud after which the fraudster had complained about him and was awarded £300 and continued:
"The Law Society encourages people to make complaints that it is not reasonable to make at all and ignores everything that is relevant for reasoning to an objective standard. When the Law Society disciplined me for proving perjury they were saying my client had no right to representation in court to expose the truth which means that the powers of the Law Society are used to pervert the course of justice. I wanted the right to argue in court about unfairness of the processes the Law Society manage and unfairness of the Law Society having the power to enforce decisions before they have been subjected to something in the form of judicial processes.
- He claimed that he was entitled to speak on behalf of the people and could prove "in equity, we all share a responsibility to decide and do what is reasonable by the objective standard and to give priority to keeping the peace." He then referred to the relation between the people and the monarchy which, he said, was governed by equitable principles. He said that he discovered serious corruption in 2004 and gave notice of that fact to The Queen, the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, the Lord Chancellor and the Speaker. When The Queen made a speech saying that dark forces were at work, he considered that this was an indication that she acknowledged receipt of his letter and appreciated its significance; he had produced the evidence that allowed her to dissolve Parliament. He had also communicated to the Archbishop of Canterbury who by making a public statement that a decision had to be made how far the church could support the state revealed that the Bishops would support the monarchy in the dissolution of Parliament. The key issue was the control of electronic identities; the authorities wanted to keep secret the evidence that might enable the majority to understand the issues and had two men removed from circulation and perverted the course of justice to do so.
- When asked to address the issues, Mr Ellis said that the entire process was flawed with no opportunity to test the evidence. The Law Society engaged in the practice of paying people to make complaints and because the processes are unfair and enforced before anyone goes into the court room, officials were empowered to pervert the course of justice. These powers were used to intimidate lawyers out of exposing the truth. It is for this reason that there had to be a rebalancing of the constitutional process. The key flaw was the refusal to admit evidence of perversion of the course of justice by the Law Society prosecutor who had supervised the process that resulted in the evidence that had been presented. He said that in the 1,000 pages of documents that the Tribunal had refused to receive, there was evidence that the prosecutor had ordered officials not to provide a copy of the decision required by the Administrative Court and thereby frustrated the process by which the case could be tried.
- Mr Ellis went on that he had to prove for use in other proceedings a systemic abuse of process. When pressed that the court was concerned with his case, he replied that the justice people had a justice process; "if you fail to investigate the process, you are at the mercy of those who have power to corrupt the process". He was exposing corruption.
- There are two distinct limbs to the complaints advanced by the Law Society. The first concerns the complaint made by FM the evidence for which consisted entirely of documentary material which the Tribunal was fully able to analyse without a detailed investigation of anything to do with the process whereby the Law Society (or anyone else) investigated complaints or the commission of crime or the extradition of alleged offenders. In that regard, the Tribunal reached the only conclusion open to it on the facts. A complaint had been made against Mr Ellis which was found to be established. He challenged that finding by way of appeal to a panel and lost. He had sought judicial review of that decision and failed. His concerns about abuse of power and perversion of the course of justice are simply irrelevant. As a solicitor, bound by the Rules, he should have complied with the adjudication and dealt timeously both with it and the correspondence which he received. It was open to the Tribunal (if not inevitable) to reject his explanations as unsatisfactory and no answer. A challenge to the findings in relation to the first two allegations made by the Law Society is untenable.
- The remaining allegations relate to inappropriate, offensive and derogatory correspondence directed to and about the Law Society, FM, members of the judiciary and others. I find these more difficult because, at least in relation to the Law Society and the judiciary, it is necessary to approach the matter on the basis that a solicitor is entitled to hold strong views, however unpalatable others might find them to be, and, furthermore, the officials of the former and members of the latter must be and are equally robust in being able to ignore observations of an intemperate or even abusive nature. Disciplinary action of the type taken in this case should not normally follow for this reason alone. Neither should it follow simply because of concern as to the mental health of a solicitor (although there may be an alternative approach to this problem when the Legal Services Act 2007 comes into force).
- I recognise, however, that there must be a line beyond which such proceedings are justifiable and, perhaps, inevitable. It is trite to say that each case must depend on its own facts but the test might well be whether the level of abuse and obsession permeates the solicitor's approach to the real detriment of his client. After all, the reputation and integrity of the profession is essential to maintain public confidence in its ability to act in the very best interests of each client to the highest professional standard without being affected by extraneous issues.
- The complaint made by FM is a case in point. What started as a simple issue of the adequacy of the work which Mr Ellis performed has been transformed through these proceedings into a series of allegations of corruption and perversion of the course of justice at the highest level. Concerns which flow from Mr Ellis' involvement in the extradition proceedings to which reference has been made have filtered into proceedings of every type and, among other things, have affected his own dealings in relation to the Inland Revenue and Companies House. I have come to the conclusion that in this case, it was open to the Tribunal to find proved the remaining two allegations.
- As to whether it was open to the Tribunal indefinitely to suspend Mr Ellis, direction is provided by Bolton v. Law Society  1 WLR 512. This case concerned inappropriate dispersal of funds from client account which was naïve and foolish but not dishonest. Sir Thomas Bingham MR identified as the most fundamental purpose of the orders of the Tribunal as:
"...to maintain the reputation of the solicitors' profession as one in which every member, of whatever standing, may be trusted to the ends of the earth. .... A profession's most valuable asset is its collective reputation and the confidence which that inspires."
- The Tribunal concluded (as it was entitled to) that Mr Ellis' remarks brought the profession into disrepute and that he continues "to make wholly inappropriate and deeply offensive remarks to and about those involved in the legal system and judicial processes" with no foundation. Mr Ellis is entitled to believe what he wishes but the inevitable consequence (although unstated by the Tribunal) is that it would be quite impossible to see how Mr Ellis could impartially advise and represent clients to a necessary and high standard in and within a system which he rejects as forcefully as he does. Indefinite suspension was an appropriate penalty.
- That is not to say that the suspension imposed on Mr Ellis should necessarily be lengthy. Had he been able to show a real appreciation of the reasoning of those judges who determined the extradition proceedings (so understanding the absurdity of some of his wilder allegations), the Law Society in respect of the complaint by FM and the approaches of the other judges to the litigation in which he was involved (not in any sense touched by the concerns which he has), I would have approached the question of penalty differently. Although it is a matter entirely for Mr Ellis, medical advice might assist him to commence a full reconsideration of his position on a number of issues so encouraging the view that he is entitled once more to the confidence previously reposed in him. As soon as that state has been reached, for my part, I would hope that the suspension would be lifted. As it is, based on the present position, I would dismiss this appeal.
- Mr Ellis also challenged the order for costs made in the Tribunal where, in an effort to avoid further ancillary litigation, costs were fixed at £4,000 after £5,021 had been claimed. That approach was perfectly sensible and, in the light of the extensive necessary background work, the assessed costs were entirely reasonable. I would also reject this challenge.
Mr Justice Lloyd Jones:
- I agree.
Copyright Policy |
Donate to BAILII