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England and Wales Court of Appeal (Civil Division) Decisions

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Cite as: [2001] EWCA Civ 632

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Neutral Citation Number: [2001] EWCA Civ 632

(Mr Jarvis QC
(sitting as a deputy High Court judge))

Royal Courts of Justice
London WC2
Monday 30th April, 2001

B e f o r e :


- v -


(Computer Aided Transcript of the Palantype Notes of
Smith Bernal Reporting Limited, 190 Fleet Street,
London EC4A 2AG
Tel: 020 7421 4040
Official Shorthand Writers to the Court)


THE APPLICANT appeared on his own behalf
THE RESPONDENT did not appear and was not represented



Crown Copyright ©

  1. LORD JUSTICE ALDOUS: This is an application for permission to appeal made by Mr and Mrs Belchamber against the orders of Mr Jarvis QC sitting as a deputy High Court judge dated 5th and 6th October 2000 respectively and an application for an adjournment.
  2. The decisions of the judge arose in these circumstances. On 7th March 2000 Mr and Mrs Belchamber were adjudged bankrupt. They appealed. Their appeals were due to be heard on 29th June 2000. They failed to appear and their appeals were dismissed by His Honour Judge Rich QC on that day.
  3. Mr and Mrs Belchamber applied to relist and review the appeals. Those applications were listed for hearing on 5th October before the judge. They did not appear and these applications were dismissed. I think there was a misunderstanding. In any case, the matter was relisted for 6th October. On that date the judge allowed Mr and Mrs Belchamber to appear (on their request) to review the decision of His Honour Judge Rich which had dismissed their appeal. He heard submissions made by Mr Belchamber on behalf of both of them, and having done so he upheld his order of the previous day and refused permission to appeal. His decision is set out in his judgment appended as part of the transcript of the proceedings that took place on that day.
  4. The judge states in his judgment that he allowed Mr Belchamber to advance every argument that he wished to argue. He had had an opportunity of reading the court file and the documents which had been produced. He went on to set out the background to the matter and came to the conclusion that the appeal that had been heard in default by His Honour Judge Rich stood no chance of success.
  5. At the outset of the hearing today Mr Belchamber sought an adjournment. His reason was that he had been unable to obtain a copy of the judgment of His Honour Judge Rich of 29th June. He says that despite the researches that he has made - and he has produced to me the correspondence - he has not been able to obtain a copy of the judgment.
  6. In my view there is no need for that judgment to be produced. The question before the court is whether the judgment of the judge is one which there would be a real prospect of success in appealing. That was a judgment in which the judge reviewed the matters that were before His Honour Judge Rich. In those circumstances an adjournment would not advance the matter one little bit. I come therefore to the application for permission to appeal.
  7. The background to his matter is long and complicated. It can be ascertained from judgments of Harman J and, more shortly, in the judgment of the judge. It all stems from an action started in the High Court in 1985 which was for about 13,000 by a company called CJ Hurst (Lickfold) Ltd. It was against Mr and Mrs Belchamber for services rendered to them under a building contract.
  8. The second respondents are a firm of solicitors called Penningtons who then acted for Mr Belchamber. They settled the claim with the solicitors for CJ Hurst for the sum of 3,700 on 22nd November 1988. The solicitors for CJ Hurst did not present a consent order until 18th October 1991. At this point Mr Belchamber dismissed his solicitors, Messrs Penningtons, and refused to sign the consent order without proof of the terms of the settlement. I suspect he took the view - which he expressed to me today - that the whole thing was a fantasy; in effect he owed no money.
  9. CJ Hurst then issued proceedings in the Chichester County Court for the money that had been agreed, the 3,700. In response Mr Belchamber denied that the claim had been compromised with his approval. Mr and Mrs Belchamber then started proceedings requesting that the respondents (that is CJ Hurst and Penningtons) should produce proof of the terms of the settlement. That action was stayed until determination of the County Court action brought by CJ Hurst to recover the 3,700. The County Court ordered Mr and Mrs Belchamber to file a defence and granted leave to join Messrs Penningtons to the proceedings.
  10. The question as to whether the claim had been compromised was heard on 29th October 1993 before His Honour Judge Baker, who held that there had been a settlement and that it was binding between the parties.
  11. On 4th March 1996 His Honour Judge Baker ordered Mr Belchamber to sign the consent order to pay the first respondent - in the order it was 2,577.63. It was subsequently amended to record the agreed sum of 3,700.
  12. Mr and Mrs Belchamber sought permission to appeal on 30th March 1994. They continued to refuse to sign the consent order, and CJ Hurst applied to the court for an order that the sum of 3,700, plus the costs which they had been awarded, should be paid.
  13. The applicants sought permission from this court to appeal, but that was refused by Butler-Sloss and Kennedy LJJ on 9th November 1994.
  14. There followed a dispute about the costs. Mr and Mrs Belchamber applied to have the bill of costs disqualified and that application was dismissed on 10th April 1996. In May 1996 they appealed this decision and that appeal came before Harman J who sat with assessors. It was dismissed by order of 6th December 1996. In his judgment Harman J noted:
  15. "This application is entirely misconceived."
  16. On 15th May 1997 the Official Referees Court closed the file on the original High Court action. Mr Belchamber took the view that this confirmed that the court was "exercising its jurisdiction to terminate the action" and that no costs would be payable by him. The solicitors for CJ Hurst rejected that contention and proceeded with an order that the applicant, Mr Belchamber, be orally examined on 20th June 1997. He failed to attend and on 23rd June 1997 a statutory demand was made against Mrs Belchamber for 5,497.64 by CJ Hurst. An application was made to set aside the statutory demand on the basis that a sum in excess had been paid into court. That sum was then ordered to be paid out to CJ Hurst.
  17. On 15th September 1997 solicitors for CJ Hurst wrote to Mr and Mrs Belchamber setting out the total sums owing due to the cumulative costs orders made against them. This was stated to be 10,634.23 owed to CJ Hurst and 19,609.08 owed to Penningtons; a total of over 30,000. The letter offered to settle the outstanding costs of both the respondents by a payment of 20,000 and it gave seven days to respond.
  18. An application to strike out all litigation in the County Court and set aside various orders was made by Mr and Mrs Belchamber on 3rd February 1998. It was dismissed on 2nd March 1998 in the Chichester County Court.
  19. On 8th April a further statutory demand was made of both Mr and Mrs Belchamber. An application to set it aside was made to the Brighton County Court on 28th April 1998. On 30th April warrants were issued for the arrest of the applicants for non-attendance at an oral examination that had been ordered. On 2nd June 1998 His Honour Judge Baker sitting in the Chichester County Court dismissed the applicants' applications to set aside the statutory demand. Permission to appeal was refused.
  20. It does not appear from the papers that are before me what happened to those statutory demands. But another statutory demand dated 8th December 1999 was served and it was on the basis of that that the first respondents applied to the Brighton County Court for the bankruptcy of Mr and Mrs Belchamber. The application was contested, but Mr Belchamber was adjudged bankrupt by District Judge Merrick on 7th March 2000. This decision was subject to an application for annulment in the Brighton County Court on 7th April 2000 which was dismissed by Deputy District Judge Hammond. The applicants then appealed to the High Court against the decision of 7th March 2000. At this stage in the history I come back to where I started at the beginning of this judgment which, for convenience, I repeat.
  21. The appeal was due to be heard on 29th June 2000, but the applicants failed to appear. The letter that Mr Belchamber wrote explains how that occurred. It states that a firm of solicitors called Barlows had been instructed to act for them. In their absence His Honour Judge Rich dismissed their appeal. The applicants then applied to the High Court for the matter to be relisted to enable the matter to be renewed. That was the application heard on the 5th when they failed to attend again due to a misunderstanding, and which was subsequently heard by the judge. His conclusion was that there were no grounds whatsoever for setting aside the bankruptcy orders. That is the judgment which Mr Belchamber seeks to appeal to this court.
  22. The history which I have recounted shows the risk of litigation. Mr and Mrs Belchamber had building works done and, as can happen in such circumstances, the bill was disputed in an amount of about 13,000. As was held by the court, the solicitors agreed a compromise whereby Mr Belchamber was to pay 3,700. It was Mr Belchamber's view that no such agreement had been made and there followed litigation against his solicitors and the builders. Unfortunately for Mr and Mrs Belchamber they lost that litigation. They ended up with a bill of costs of over 30,000. They did not pay and they have been adjudged bankrupt. That they owed the money in my view cannot be doubted, as also sources of appeal against the costs orders have been exhausted.
  23. Against that background I come to the grounds of appeal set out in their application. They are numerous and I will attempt to summarise them. First, the bankruptcies stem from debts for costs accrued in litigation rising from a claim which Mr and Mrs Belchamber deny are owed. Second, orders made on 30th March 1992 the applicants contend are contrary to justice and a false instrument. Third, no transcripts or tapes have been produced of the hearings of 7th March and 29th June. Fourth, CJ Hurst and Penningtons are vexatious litigants according to the definition in Attorney-General v Barker, The Times, 7th March 2000. Fifth, Mr and Mrs Belchamber were prejudiced by being described as having no known occupation in the statutory demand. Sixth, the order of 5th October failed to deal with substantive matters and misrepresented Mr Belchamber's attendance. Sixth, there has been a breach of the Human Rights Act 1998 in particular Articles 6(1) and 8(2), 13 and 17. Mr Belchamber also complains of an invasion of personal and financial affairs, wrongful reporting of a telephone call by solicitors at a hearing of 5th October 2000 and other matters.
  24. In my view this application is totally misconceived. The issue before the judge was whether the bankruptcy orders were correctly made. In this particular case the underlying debts, namely the orders for costs, could not be disputed as all avenues of appeal had been exhausted. The debts in question had been verified, the statutory demand had been served and in those circumstances there was no chance of the bankruptcy order being set aside. I have come to the conclusion that there is no legitimate grounds for questioning the judge's decision. There is no new material in the documents that I have before me and the appeal would stand no real prospect of success.
  25. I therefore refuse permission to appeal.
  26. ORDER: Application for permission to appeal refused; permission to appeal to the House of Lords refused.
    (Order not part of approved judgment)

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