A litigant in person who argued that security guards stopped him lodging his case in time has had the claim struck out.
John Croke was required to apply for permission to quash a planning decision by 23 March this year, but ended up filing the claim form on 29 March.
The respondent, listed as the Secretary of State for Communities, applied to strike out the claim on the grounds the six-week time limit had expired and the court had no jurisdiction to entertain it.
Croke said he had intended to attend the administrative court office in central London but missed his train from Haddenham, Bucks.
With the court office shutting at 4.30pm, he instructed someone nearby to file the claim for him; however Croke claimed that when his acquaintance arrived at the Royal Courts of Justice at 4.25pm he was refused entry by security and told the counters were closed.
He personally attended the next day at 3.30pm, but because of the volume of people he was not seen until 5pm and even then had the wrong claim form. Croke was then told to return the next working day, which – due to the Good Friday and Easter Monday bank holidays – was not until 29 March.
Croke said that physically preventing a litigant from accessing the court appeared to deprive him of access to justice.
Zach Simons, representing the respondent, said there was no evidence of the court office closing before 4.30pm and that the claimant had an obligation to ensure his claim was lodged on time. Simons stressed the need for ‘legal certainty’ and said the circumstances of the challenge could be used by other litigants.
But Her Honour Judge Alice Robinson, in Croke v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, said this was not a case where the court office was closed, nor where Croke or his acquaintance were prevented from attending court by any action of the court itself.
Litigants whose claims are subject to strict time limits must make arrangements to ensure they attend the court office in good time so they are not ‘thwarted by unexpected problems’, she said.
Robinson added: ‘Where it is necessary to issue a claim in a court office, litigants must anticipate security procedures and the need to obey the directions of security staff. The position would have been the same if there had been a queue to go through security.’
Robinson said Croke’s argument, that a where a court office is inaccessible then the due date is extended until it becomes accessible, raised more questions than it answers.
She ruled that the application was out of time as of 23 March and therefore that the court did not have jurisdiction.