Civil restraint orders (CVOs) prevent individuals from bringing claims or applications which are without merit. CVOs commonly require their subject to obtain court permission before further claims or applications relating to a particular cause of action (i.e. a claim for patent infringement) can be issued. In Perry v FH Brundle & Ors  EWHC 678 (IPEC), the court granted a 'general' CVO. This restricts Mr Perry not only from bringing claims relating to a particular cause of action (an alleged infringement of his patent), but goes significantly further and restricts him from filing any claim or application in court without permission at all.
Mr Perry was the registered owner of a patent for a fence bracket and accused the defendants of infringing his patent. In 2014, the defendants were successful in a claim for unjustified threats and Mr Perry failed in his counterclaim for infringement. Mr Perry was refused permission to appeal. In 2015, Mr Perry started a new action citing the same claim, but it was struck out as res judicata (matter already judged). As a consequence, Mr Perry also became subject to his first CVO (an extended CVO). This restricted him from bringing future claims relating to patent infringement against the defendants. His requests for permission to appeal against the extended CVO were refused. Mr Perry had also been declared bankrupt by this point.
The terms of Mr Perry's extended CVO expired in March 2017 and the defendants applied for a 'general' CVO in the terms set out above. A letter from Mr Perry was submitted as evidence in support of the application. In this letter, Mr Perry indicated his intention to issue a number of applications and/or claims for (amongst other things): i) fraud by the defendants and their solicitors; ii) annulment of his bankruptcy order; and iii) a claim for passing off based on misuse of his name. Mr Perry further alleged that he would seek to revoke the defendants' lawyers' practising licences and issue proceedings against the Official Receiver for acting dishonestly as a trustee and for perverting the course of justice.
In granting the general CVO, the court noted that an extended CVO would be neither sufficient nor appropriate given the circumstances following assessment of Mr Perry's conduct as a whole. Based on the evidence before it, the court found it likely that Mr Perry would persist in the future to issue claims and applications "which are totally without merit concerning matters other than those involving or relating to or touching upon or leading to the proceedings in which the order is made". This was supported by Mr Perry's intention to issue claims for fraud and passing off, as well as bankruptcy proceedings.
The court was careful to balance Mr Perry's right to access court with the court's obligation to protect the rights of others to be free from the loss that flows from unfounded claims and the court's scarce publicly funded resources. This ruling shows that IPEC is not afraid to flex its CVO muscles in the face of repeatedly unfounded claims and allegations. It is also fair to say that this is an extreme example of the court stepping in to prevent someone pursuing a claim before the court, but it reflects the extreme and wide-ranging nature of Mr Perry's seemingly wild allegations.
With thanks to Sarah Lennon for her contribution to this article.
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