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England and Wales Court of Appeal (Civil Division) Decisions

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Cite as: [2001] EWCA Civ 1587

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Neutral Citation Number: [2001] EWCA Civ 1587


Royal Courts of Justice
The Strand
Tuesday 23 October 2001

B e f o r e :


- v -
DONNE MILEHAM & HADDOCK Respondent/Defendant


(Computer Aided Transcription by
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THE APPLICANT appeared in person


Crown Copyright ©

    Tuesday 23 October 2001

  1. LORD JUSTICE SEDLEY: This is an application made by Mr Stegers in person for permission to appeal from a decision of Her Honour Judge Coates given on 7 April 2000. I have had the advantage today of oral submissions from Mr Stegers, who has made them with courtesy and clarity for which I am grateful.
  2. His biggest and most immediate problem, to which I will return, is that his Notice of Appeal is one year and four months out of time, so that before he can get anywhere he needs permission to appeal out of time.
  3. The background to the application is this. In 1993 Mr Stegers was injured in a road traffic accident for which the other motorist admitted liability. Mr Stegers instructed Donne Mileham and Haddock, a local firm of solicitors, to claim damages for him. However, he became dissatisfied with the way they conducted the case and terminated their instructions in March 1994. Subsequently, he formed the view that Donne Mileham and Haddock had continued to act to his detriment without his instructions. He made complaints to the Solicitors Complaints Bureau and the Legal Services Ombudsman, neither of which complaint was upheld.
  4. The personal injury claim was finally settled. However, the Legal Aid Board retained a little over 800 of the damages under their statutory lien. There was an unfortunate history involving the need for a taxation of costs, but in the end, in January 1999, that sum of 800-odd was repaid to Mr Stegers. By then he had issued his proceedings against Donne Mileham and Haddock and very properly reduced his claim against them by the amount he had just received.
  5. His remaining claim was for liquidated damages of a little under 1,000, together with exemplary damages. That claim went to an arbitration hearing before District Judge Jackson on 24 June 1999. The district judge dismissed the claim on all its heads. I pick out only the one which has been the principal focus of Mr Stegers' submissions to me today and which features as item No 1 in his grounds of appeal, namely the allegation that Donne Mileham and Haddock had obtained a medical report on Mr Stegers of which he himself knew nothing. It is his case that harm eventuated to him because of this, since adverse findings were made on the basis of the court's belief that he was wrong in so asserting.
  6. There is a circularity in that argument, but one which I do not think I need to unravel for present purposes. The claim was dismissed by the district judge in no uncertain terms. The applicant sought to have it set aside before Her Honour Judge Coates. That application was out of time. That has a bearing on the fact that this application too is out of time. Mr Stegers suggested, as he continues to submit, that he has new evidence to show that there was bias in the initial hearing and fraud on the part of Donne Mileham and Haddock who knowingly misled the court.
  7. Judge Coates dismissed the appeal (if it was an appeal), or the application to set aside (if it was an application to set aside). She found that Mr Stegers was fully aware of the instructions to a medical expert to provide a report. This is firmly challenged and contested by Mr Stegers.
  8. Mr Stegers then sought judicial review of Judge Coates' decision. The application came before Turner J. Although the judgment is not in the bundle before me, Mr Stegers tells me that his application for judicial review was held to be out of time. Against that decision Mr Stegers sought permission to appeal and was refused by Pill LJ.
  9. In answer to the objection that the present application is also badly out of time, Mr Stegers relies upon section 7(5)(a) and section 6(1) of the Human Rights Act 1998. The first of these provisions, however, which gives a year in which to bring proceedings, has no bearing upon the time limited for bringing an appeal. That is separately provided for in the rules. In any event, it relates only to proceedings for violation of the Human Rights Act. Mr Stegers further submits that section 6(1), which requires all public authorities, including courts, to act compatibly with the Convention, assists him in this regard. I am afraid I cannot see how it does so. The Human Rights Act does not give people unlimited time in which to bring appeals. It leaves it to the proper Rules of Court to determine the right time to set for the bringing of appeals. This application, I am sorry to say, is not only way out of time, but inexcusably so.
  10. Mr Stegers' reason is that he is a working man. He devoted his time and attention to the unsuccessful judicial review proceedings, and only when they failed did he turn to this course of seeking to appeal directly against the decision of Her Honour Judge Coates. I am afraid that that is not a sufficient reason. If he had been actively misled by somebody to whom he had turned for advice into taking the wrong course, that might be one thing, but it was (so far as everything he tells me demonstrates) his choice, and a wrong choice, to attempt to quash by judicial review. It is also highly material that that application itself was made out of time, as was the application to Her Honour Judge Coates. Thus today's delay represents not an aberration but a continuing history.
  11. In all these circumstances it seems to me that there is no good reason to enlarge time for the necessary extensive period to make this proposed appeal competent. Nor, however, would there be grounds for giving permission to appeal, even if the appeal had been lodged in time. This would be a second appeal from the County Court, and therefore not to be given permission upon the usual test, which is stringent enough, of a realistic prospect of success. It has to raise some real and important point of legal principle. On no view, in my judgment, does it do so. Giving the best weight I can to what Mr Stegers has put before me, it is in essence a complaint that the judge below got the facts wrong or can now be shown to have got the facts wrong. That does not come anywhere near the required standard for a second appeal. So whether or not it were in time, it would not be a viable appeal.
  12. I refuse permission on the initial ground that it is too late now to bring such an appeal as Mr Stegers seeks. I reiterate my gratitude to him for the economy with which he has made his submissions to me.

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