Nick and Malcolm Statman vs Stuart Brown Verdict Transcript (23/04/2014)- Pages 46 to 50 (of 75)

APPROVED JUDGMENT (contd… Pages 46 to 50 of 75)

202. The evidence relied upon by the claimants in addition to the two statements used to support the ex parte and renewed injunction included the witness statement of Mr Statman of 6th March 2014, which deals with the entirety of the complaints made against the defendant, cross referenced where appropriate to the documents. At paragraph 36 of his statement Mr Statman (Snr) described how the harassment had personally affected him. In particular, he was, to use his terms, absolutely appalled and devastated at the impact which the defendant’s conduct had had upon his son.

203. In this statement, Mr Statman Senior referred to the defendant’s blog post-dated 24th February 2014 – that is after the order of 17th January 2013 – entitled, “New civil trial date, 1st April 2014, Birmingham District Registry” and that the defendant then tagged his name through to a BBC News article which confirmed the purchase by him of the former penthouse of Jimmy Savile.  I have made reference to this earlier in this judgment.  Mr Statman attached a copy of that news article to his statement.  He accepted that the article in question, which confirmed the fact of purchase, was freely available on the internet. The complaint at that stage was that the defendant was doing whatever he liked by trawling through the internet to continue the harassment of himself and his son.

204. As I have said earlier in the judgment,  I was not satisfied that there was, so far as this particular allegation by Mr Statman(Snr) was concerned, anything in it which was sufficient to justify a complaint of harassment under the Act of 1997.

205. Both claimants rely upon a course of conduct perpetrated by the defendant which is in essence limited to conduct involving the writing of emails or blogs. It is that course of conduct, evidenced by at least two of the documents written by the defendant or all of them cumulatively whether which gave rise, Mr Richardson submitted, to the completed cause of action.

206.  Viewed objectively, such alleged conduct of the defendant (as I described at earlier in this judgment) submitted Mr Richardson evidenced a deep-seated personal hatred of the claimants and an irrational desire to pursue a vendetta against them. The objective, it was submitted, was the causing of misery to both claimants and to exact from them financial compensation in respect of his loss due to the dispute to which I have already referred.

207.  The parties were required to complete a schedule of allegations setting out the dates of the allegations, the circumstances in which the allegation arose, the substance of the particular complaint of harassment or conduct together with the defendant’s response. The schedule (like the non disclosure schedule) comprised 25 separate allegations.

208. Before dealing with those allegations and, in summary form, the parties’ evidence, a substantial part of which I have already referred to in the context of the non-disclosure action, it would be convenient  to identify the established boundaries within which this cause of action may be evaluated and determined.

209. There appeared to be no real disagreement on the law or the relevant judicial guidance under the Act between Mr Richardson and Miss Omar in their closing submissions.  There was a moment during cross-examination of the defendant when Mr Richardson, in setting up the foundation for a question, posed to the defendant the proposition that conduct although lawful in itself may give rise to a claim under the Act if it resulted in anxiety or distress on the part of the victim.  I suggested to Mr Richardson that it would be appropriate to address matters of law with the court in closing submissions rather than a lay witness and that, in particular, he would need to make good that particular proposition, that a lawful act is rendered unlawful by reason of the alleged victim asserting (or indeed establishing in fact) resulting anxiety or distress. Mr Richardson in his closing submissions did not, in fact, return to that proposition. The parties appeared to be in agreement in closing submissions on the legal principles involved under the Act.

210. So far as the Act is concerned, by section 1 (1):

“(1) A person must not pursue a course of conduct—
(a)which amounts to harassment of another, and
(b)which he knows or ought to know amounts to harassment of the other.

(2) For the purposes of this section, the person whose course of conduct is in question ought to know that it amounts to harassment of another if a reasonable person in possession of the same information would think the course of conduct amounted to harassment of the other.”

211. By section 3 (1), which provided for a civil remedy:

“(1) An actual or apprehended breach of section 1 may be the subject of a claim in civil proceedings by the person who is or may be the victim of the course of conduct in question.

(2) On such a claim, damages may be awarded for (among other things) any anxiety caused by the harassment and any financial loss resulting from the harassment.

(3) Where—
(a) in such proceedings the High Court or a county court grants an injunction for the purpose of restraining the defendant from pursuing any conduct which amounts to harassment, and
(b) the plaintiff considers that the defendant has done anything which he is prohibited from doing by the injunction
the plaintiff may apply for the issue of a warrant for the arrest of the defendant.

(4) An application under subsection (3) may be made—
(a) where the injunction was granted by the High Court, to a judge of that court…

(5) The judge or district judge to whom an application under subsection (3) is made may only issue a warrant if—
(a) the application is substantiated on oath, and
(b) the judge or district judge has reasonable grounds for believing that the defendant has done anything which he is prohibited from doing by the injunction

(6) Where—
(a) the High Court or a county court grants an injunction for the purpose mentioned in subsection (3)(a), and
(b) without reasonable excuse the defendant does anything which he is prohibited from doing by the injunction
He is guilty of an offence.

(7) Where a person is convicted of an offence under subsection (6) in respect of any conduct, that conduct is not punishable as a contempt of court.”

212. As for the relevant judicial guidance, Miss Omar drew attention to the observations of Lord Nicholls in Majrowski v Guy’s and St. Thomas’ NHS Trust [2007] 1 AC 224 at paragraph 30 where he observed:

“… the boundary between conduct which is unattractive, even unreasonable, and conduct which is oppressive and unacceptable. To cross the boundary from the regrettable to the unacceptable the gravity of the misconduct must be of an order which would sustain criminal liability.”

213. Miss Omar also relied upon the approval of that test given by Lord Sumption in Hayes v Willoughby [2013] UKSC 17 at paragraph 12.  As the learned Justice of the Supreme Court observed, having recited that paragraph:

“A large proportion of those engaging in the kind of persistent and deliberate course of targeted oppression with which the Act is concerned will in the nature of things be obsessives and cranks, who will commonly believe themselves to be entitled to act as they do.”

214. From paragraph 15 of the same speech, Mr Richardson prayed in aid as follows:

“Before an alleged harasser can be said to have had the purpose of preventing or detecting crime, he must have sufficiently applied his mind to the matter. He must have thought rationally about the material suggesting the possibility of criminality and formed the view that the conduct said to constitute harassment was appropriate for the purpose of preventing or detecting it. If he has done these things, then he has the relevant purpose. The court will not test his conclusions by reference to the view which a hypothetical reasonable man in his position would have formed. If, on the other hand, he has not engaged in these minimum mental processes necessary to acquire the relevant state of mind, but proceeds anyway on the footing that he is acting to prevent or detect crime, then he acts irrationally. In that case, two consequences will follow. The first is that the law will not regard him as having had the relevant purpose at all. He has simply not taken the necessary steps to form one. The second is that the causal connection which section 1(3)(a) posits between the purpose of the alleged harasser and the conduct constituting the harassment, will not exist. The effect of applying a test of rationality to the question of purpose is to enable the court to apply to private persons a test which would in any event apply to public authorities engaged in the prevention or detection of crime as a matter of public law. It is not a demanding test, and it is hard to imagine that Parliament can have intended anything less.”

Mr Richardson cited that as being applicable by analogy to the circumstances of the present case.  True, on the facts of this case, the defence in relation to the purpose of preventing or detecting crime was not overtly raised and evidence was not addressed to it. Mr Richardson submitted that the court is here concerned with a fixated or obsessive defendant who is determined and driven by an attitude of hatred towards the claimants. Mr Richardson observed that the defendant’s conduct in reporting his clients to numerous regulatory bodies was a relevant feature remarked upon by Lord Sumption.  To that extent, it was submitted that the guidance in that particular case is relevant  to the present case since the court is concerned, it was argued, with a fixated and irrational defendant.

215. In that context, Mr Richardson also drew attention to the case of Jones v Carmarthen County Council, a decision of Tugendhat J which was decided on its own very involved and detailed facts and which again concerned a complainant who appeared to be ‘driven’, fixated and unable to distinguish the rational from irrational. I do not consider that the analogy sought to be drawn by Mr Richardson between those cases and the present case is justified or helpful. The defendant’s conduct comes nowhere near the conduct described in those cases. In the defendant’s case there was a rational  basis and some evidential support for his observations about which complaint is now made.

216. Mr Richardson also drew attention to helpful judicial guidance, relevant to this case, to the observation of Lord Philips, Master of the Rolls, in Thomas v News Group Newspapers Limited & Another [2001] EWCA Civ 1233 at paragraph 30 where he said:
“‘Harassment’ is, however, a word which has a meaning which is generally understood. It describes conduct targeted at an individual which is calculated to produce the consequences described in section 7 and which is oppressive and unreasonable.”

217. Mr Richardson also drew attention to a helpful summary of criteria identified by Simon J in Dowson & Others v Chief Constable of Northumbria Police [2010] EWHC 2612 QB at paragraph 142 in which he considered six matters necessary to establish a claim in harassment, namely:

“(1) There must be conduct which occurs on at least two occasions
(2) which is targeted at the claimant
(3) which is calculated in an objective sense to cause alarm or distress, and
(4) which is objectively judged to be oppressive and unacceptable.
(5) What is oppressive and unacceptable may depend on the social or working context in which the conduct occurs.
(6) A line is to be drawn between conduct which is unattractive and unreasonable, and conduct which has been described in various ways: ‘torment’ of the victim, ‘of an order which would sustain criminal liability’.”

That judicial guidance provides a useful pointer to the nature of the conduct complained of which the claimant must establish in order to trigger the jurisdiction of the court either to grant an award of damages or  permanent injunction.

218. It is important to emphasise that conduct which might be seen overtly to be unattractive and which may well cause annoyance and, indeed, on occasions upset, is not the test to be applied.  Rather, the test is, rightly in my judgment, more stringent.  It must be shown to be tantamount to being oppressive and unacceptable and such which would sustain a criminal liability.  There is a clear boundary which will be identified on the facts of each particular case and the burden is upon the claimants to show that that boundary has, on the balance of probabilities, been overstepped.

219. Harassment includes anxiety or distress. The more obvious the crossing of the boundary, the more likely a harmful effect of anxiety or distress would result.  Once that line has been crossed, the harasser must then take his victim as he finds him and if, for example, as in this case, the person affected suffered from some inherent disease or susceptibility and thus reacted more severely than might otherwise be expected such unexpected consequence would be no defence. However, the claimant must first establish an actionable act (or acts) of harassment. The Act clearly shows and the judicial guidance emphasises the fact that, whether or not the course of conduct in question is such that the perpetrator knew or ought to have known amounted to harassment is a question of fact. Such will be established if that conduct amounts to harassment of another if a reasonable person in possession of the same information would think that the course of conduct amounted to harassment of the other.

220. The starting point, of course, is the clear identification of the conduct complained of. Thereafter the claimant must show that the conduct went beyond the  boundary set by accepted norms of behaviour and could properly be described as oppressive (and tantamount to criminal behaviour).

221. The first claimant, Mr Nick Statman, gave evidence.  He was concerned that the defendant bore a grudge. That is, the defendant had generated a process of postings and comments solely to cause distress or upset. The underlying and offensive tone was that, “We [that is himself, his father and/or his companies] were in some way shady or dishonest and that the purpose was to irritate”. Mr Statman considered that the defendant’s publications had nothing to do with exercising a right of freedom of expression. Rather, he complained, the  defendant was concerned and fixated with a desire to irritate and cause distress.

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Claimants –

Mr Nicholas Charles Statman aka Nick teflon-coat Statman
Mr Malcolm Robert Statman aka Malcolm bully-boy Statman
Gateway Homes Nationwide Franchise Ltd / Whitehall Franchise Ltd (in liquidation from August 2014)
Gateway Homes UK Ltd
(Other trading companies / names in operation –
OPANET LIMITED
CXI 92 LIMITED
KINGSBRIDGE AND CARTER LTD
STATPROPS LIMITED
SPEEDY PROPERTIES LTD
TOM CRAVEN LIMITED
ROBERT CHARLES PROPERTY LIMITED
GATEWAY HOMES RENTALS UK LIMITED
GATEWAY HOLDINGS (UK) LIMITED
GATEWAY HOMES RENTALS UK LIMITED
PROP BUY LTD
ROOST UK LIMITED)

Claimants Legal Team (upto end July 2014) –

Miss Kaye Longhorn – Cohen Cramer Solicitors
(apparently now departed employment)
Miss Emily Slater – Cohen Cramer Solicitors
(apparently now been fired) aka Miss Emily I-am-the-law Slater
Miss Gemma Bowkett – Cohen Cramer Solicitors
(apparently now departed employment)
Mr Michael McDonnell – Cohen Cramer Solicitors

Mr Matthew Richardson – Barrister @ Henderson Chambers aka Mr Matthew tweedledum Richardson (Ex-UKIP General Secretary … that didn’t last long!)
Mr Adam Richardson – Barrister @ Warwick House Chambers
aka Mr Adam tweedledee Richardson

Claimants Legal Team (post July 2014) –

Miss Clare Painter – Group Manager, Gateway Homes UK Ltd aka Jane Wood (trying to act as a McKenzie Friend)
Mr Nick Statman – acting as a Litigant In Person

Defendant –

Mr Stuart Brown – acting as Litigant In Person, represented at Trial by Miss Omar

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