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England and Wales Court of Appeal (Civil Division) Decisions

You are here: BAILII >> Databases >> England and Wales Court of Appeal (Civil Division) Decisions >> Ratra v Lord Chancellor's Department [2002] EWCA Civ 1904 (16 December 2002)
Cite as: [2002] EWCA Civ 1904

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Neutral Citation Number: [2002] EWCA Civ 1904

(Mr Justice Henriques)

Royal Courts of Justice
London WC2
Monday, 16th December 2002

B e f o r e :




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The Applicant Claimant Mr Ratra appeared in person.
The Respondent Defendant did not appear and was not represented.



Crown Copyright ©


  1. Contrary to every expectation I had, I am not dismissing this application as one which is utterly hopeless, though it may yet turn out to be so.
  2. It is an application for permission to appeal against the order made by Mr Justice Henriques on 6th September 2002, when he dismissed an application made by Mr Ratra for permission to bring proceedings against the Lord Chancellor's Department. He needed permission because Master Whitaker had earlier made a so-called Grepe v Loam order against Mr Ratra, a form of order barring vexatious litigants from proceeding without the permission of the Court.
  3. The action that Mr Ratra wishes to launch is a claim for damages against the Lord Chancellor's Department, complaining of, first, his false imprisonment and, secondly, breaches of his human rights. The claim for false imprisonment arises out of his appalling behaviour in the County Court, in an action in which he was a party which was listed before District Judge Langley on 10th September 2001.
  4. Mr Ratra is a paranoid schizophrenic. He has appeared twice before me and, I am bound to say, has conducted himself with total propriety, a degree of dignity and even a sense of humour. But on this day, perhaps because he had not taken the medication he was required to take, he behaved outrageously and abused and even threatened the district judge, so that she had to leave the court. He then carried on in that vein. The judge came back later and indicated to him that she was minded to sentence him to a term of imprisonment for a contempt in the face of the court. He remained pretty obdurate and, without going into the detail, the judge sentenced him to one month's imprisonment. He applied to purge his contempt a day or two later and was released.
  5. Mr Justice Henriques gave a short judgment, according to the note before me, saying that there was no reasonable prospect of success because, had the district judge followed the practice direction and run through the range of protections that are there set out, and particularly had she given him legal representation, it would have made no difference because his contempt was so bad that, apology or no apology, he would have been sent to prison in any event.
  6. The first ground of complaint against that judgment is that, even if the judge was correct in finding that the breaches of the practice direction did not in domestic law render the sentence of imprisonment unlawful, so that there would be no claim for false imprisonment, the judge failed to see this in human rights terms and in terms of separate breaches of the Human Rights Act which are freestanding. It may be argued successfully that there was a breach of article 5 because the sentence was imposed contrary to the procedures of the court. If committal proceedings are criminal in their nature, there may arguably be breaches of article 6.
  7. I had initially thought that the case was in any event doomed to fail because, even if there are breaches of human rights giving rise to a separate cause of action under section 7 of the Human Rights Act, the claimant would face the impossible difficulty that he was only able to bring his claim on an application for judicial review. But in a skeleton argument prepared for him by counsel, whose industry is to be commended, it is sought to be argued that section 9(1)(c) of the Human Rights Act 1998, allowing proceedings to be brought "in such other forum as may be prescribed by the rules", does allow this particular claim for this reason: namely, that CPR 7.11 allows a claim under section 7(1) in respect of any judicial act to be brought only in the High Court; and it is argued that this is what has been done here.
  8. I am hesitant about allowing this to go further, but, since there are bound to be complaints about judicial activity, the procedure may well need to be clarified sooner or later. I am, therefore, persuaded that there is enough in the application to require that it be listed on notice to the respondent, with the appeal to follow, and I so direct. This should be listed for half a day before three lords justices, one of whom should be well versed in human rights. Moreover, I would invite the Court Office to invite the Pro Bono Unit to help Mr Ratra if - and this remains a big "if" - his application for public funding is not granted.
  9. The applicant, Mr Ratra, has an application outstanding for public funding. A copy of this judgment can be supplied to the Legal Services Commission, so that they can see that there is something to argue about. If there is no obstacle, in financial terms, to public funding being granted, I hope that his public funding application will be successful because the court would be greatly assisted by the help of counsel, Miss Hill, whose skeleton argument and opinions are in the papers and for whose help I express my gratitude.
  10. There is one other factor that might be worth considering, which is this. Mr Ratra behaved abominably before the district judge. I would agree with Mr Justice Henriques that he probably deserved to be sentenced to a term of imprisonment for that outrageous behaviour. But if there has been some breach of his human rights in the process, it may be that some accommodation could be achieved. I am not saying that it should be, but, if either party wishes to use the Court's alternative dispute resolution service, then it is available and they should seek to do so. Mr Ratra might like to think that if he, even now and belatedly, gave an apology for his thoroughly bad behaviour, then if things did go wrong in the court below, however slightly, an apology offered in that respect would meet the justice of this case and leave honour intact all round. But those are matters for others to consider in due time.
  11. I would give the direction that this matter be heard on notice to the Lord Chancellor's Department. I will order a transcript of this judgment to be made available at public expense.
  12. Order: matter adjourned to be heard on notice before a court of three members, one of whom to be well versed in human rights law (time estimate half a day); transcript of this judgment to be made available at public expense.

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