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What are Civil Restraint Orders?

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Civil restraint orders (CROs) prevent individuals from bringing claims or applications which are without merit. CROs normally require their subject to obtain court permission before further claims or applications relating to a particular cause of action can be issued (e.g. a claim for patent infringement). They should not be confused with “Restraining Orders” being court orders that help protect people from violence; stalking, serious harassment or threats of violence.

There are three types of CRO—limited, extended and general. A ‘general’ civil restraint order can be used for a maximum of two years for all proceedings in the High Court or specified county courts. The following case demonstrates the power of a general CRO in the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court (“IPEC”).

In Perry v FH Brundle & Ors [2017] EWHC 678 (IPEC), the court granted a general CRO. This means that Mr Perry is restricted not only from bringing claims relating to a particular cause of action (an alleged infringement of his patent), but goes much further and prevents him from filing any claim or application in court without permission.

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 result, Mr Perry also became subject to his first CRO (an extended CRO). This restricted him from bringing future claims relating to patent infringement against the defendants. His requests for permission to appeal against the extended CRO were refused. Mr Perry had also been declared bankrupt by this point.

The terms of Mr Perry's extended CRO expired in March 2017 and the defendants applied for a general CRO 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 a number of things including fraud by the defendants and their solicitors; annulment of his bankruptcy order; and 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 licenses and issue proceedings against the Official Receiver for acting dishonestly as a trustee and for perverting the course of justice.

In granting the general CRO, the court noted that an extended CRO would be neither sufficient nor appropriate given the circumstances following assessment of Mr Perry's conduct as a whole. Based on the evidence presented, the court found it probable that Mr Perry would persist in future in issuing 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 to annul his bankruptcy.

In Summary

The court was mindful of the need to balance Mr Perry's right to access the courts with the court's obligation to protect the rights of others to be free from the loss that comes from spurious claims and to prevent waste of the court's scarce publicly funded resources. This ruling shows that IPEC is not afraid to show its strength in the face of repeated 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.

If you have any questions about Civil Restraint Orders, you can contact the Commercial team on 02380 717717.

ENDS

This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.