A litigant who flouted an ‘all courts’ order restraining him from legal proceedings was today sentenced to 15 months’ immediate custody on three counts of contempt of court.
Businessman Paul Millinder, 44, was not in court this afternoon to hear Lady Justice Andrews’ ruling. However, in a video link contribution during the morning’s hearing he accused the judiciary of conducting a ‘cover up of serious criminal offences’.
He had earlier asked the judge to recuse herself before observing: ‘I think Your Ladyship is one of the best of a very bad bunch’.
Millinder’s legal odyssey began in a dispute over a 2012 contract to build a wind turbine for Middlesbrough Football Club. In 2019, Sir Geoffrey Vos, then chancellor of the High Court, said the case ‘provides a classic example of a litigant in person getting the problems he faces out of proportion’.
Millinder was last year subject to an order under S42 of the Senior Courts Act barring him from bringing or continuing any civil proceedings or initiating any criminal proceedings without leave of the High Court. It also restricts the number of emails and other communications that Millinder may send in the course of any attempt to vary the order. An appeal against the order was dismissed by the Court of Appeal in November last year.
Today’s hearing concerned an application brought by the solicitor general for committal under Part 81 of the Civil Procedure Rules and an application by an Edinburgh company, Deuda Ltd, to set aside the order on the grounds that it had acquired rights to litigate around the original dispute.
For the solicitor general, Will Hays of 6KBW noted that Millinder’s core bundle ran to 6,451 pages. Millinder argued that the general civil restraint order had been ‘void from the outset… there was never any jurisdiction to make the order in the first place’.
Opening the proceedings, the judge said she was disturbed to note that links to the video hearing had been sent to ‘two or three other people’ without the correct application. Three individuals who failed to respond to the judge’s invitation to introduce themselves were disconnected.
On the Deuda application, Hays applied for dismissal, saying that the company was merely a mouthpiece for Millinder. A director of the company, identified as Martin Walsh, was invited to speak on the video link but, citing technical difficulties, was able to communicate with the court only by email and text. Ruling on the application, Andrews said it was ‘quite clear that Deuda’s position has aligned itself on all fours with Mr Millinder’s’.
In any case, she noted that if Deuda was a genuine assignee then a ruling against Millinder as an individual would not have any bearing on its right to litigate.
She added: ‘There is absolutely no case for this court to set aside the [S42] order and say it is void… Arguments that have been echoed are completely meritless, without foundation and betray a fundamental lack of understanding of the way the courts work. What Mr Millinder and Deuda have failed to grasp is that a court order is a valid court order unless and until it is set aside.’
Setting out in detail her reasons for passing sentence in Millinder’s absence, the judge said Millinder had been ‘given the indulgence’ of a video hearing, been granted six months’ notice to appear and was able to set out his arguments in writing. ‘One needs to get finality,’ she said.
She found 15 instances of contempt of court proved, including emails to judges and clerks, and an application made to the Crown court at Newcastle last December without the permission of the High Court.
Reasons will be set out in a reserved judgment.
Law Society Gazette