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CPs ordered to pay damages for for failing to protect individual from harassment

In R (Waxman) -v- CPs, QBD (Admin) (2 February 2012), Moore-Bick LJ considered the state's responsibility to prosecute alleged criminal offences, an individual's access to the civil courts and the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.

The Claimant had met F at college.  F had become obsessed with the Claimant and pursued a course of conduct amounting to harassment.  F was convicted of harassing the Claimant and in February 2006 was made the subject of a restraining order under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.  F was also ordered to pay the Claimant £3,000 in compensation.  In August 2006 F sued the Claimant in the county court for recovery of the £3,500.  The claim was struck out as it had no prospect of success. F continued to harass the Claimant and in November 2010 sued her again in the county court.  This claim was also struck out and F was made the subject of a civil restraint order prohibiting him from issuing proceedings without permission from a judge.  Following a complaint from the Claimant the CPs charged F with breaching the restraining order.  The basis of the alleged breach was the service of the civil proceedings on the Claimant.  Having taken advice, the CPs subsequently decided to discontinue the prosecution as it feared that it might be restricting F's right to access the courts.

The Claimant judicially reviewed the CPs's decision to discontinue the prosecution arguing that the state had a duty under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights to protect her physical and moral integrity.  Moore-Bick LJ agreed with the Claimant and in allowing the application for judicial review explained that whilst an individual's right to access the courts was a fundamental one at common law and Article 6 of the Convention, it had never been regarded as absolute.  The protection of persistent harassment of the kind in which F had engaged was a legitimate social objective that was capable of justifying a restriction of his rights under Article 6.  A distinction could be drawn in commencing legal proceedings in order to pursue a bona fide claim and commencing wholly unmeritorious legal proceedings for the sole purpose of causing vexation, anxiety and annoyance.

It was held that the CPs had been incorrect to decide the prosecution would fail.  Damages were awarded in the sum of £3,500 in respect of the alarm and distress caused by the CPs failing in its duty to take measures to protect the Claimant.


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