The High Court has rejected an attempt to ban a vexatious litigant from making any complaints about lawyers to legal regulators.
Joint applicants in Nursing & Midwifery Council & Anor v Harrold had tried to expand a civil restraint order already in place over Alvida Harrold, to stop her making complaints to the BSB or SRA.
Mr Justice Chamberlain said there was no doubt Harrold believed herself to be the victim of a campaign of persecution, which was without foundation but had hardened into an obsession. But he declined to allow such an expansion, saying the regulators already had safeguards and funds in place to deal with people who make repeated but unmerited complaints about lawyers.
‘There is no evidence that the processes of the relevant legal regulators are, as a matter of practice, unable to deal with vexatious complaints,’ said Chamerberlain. ‘Where it is obvious that a complaint lacks merit, it may be possible for it to be rejected as unfounded without referring it to the legal professional concerned.’
Lawyers for the Nursing & Midwifery Council and NHS Bristol NHS Trust had sought to further restrain Harrold after suggesting she was using complaints about their lawyers to continue her litigation battle. She has been litigating or attempting to litigate ever since she was struck off the nursing register in 2009.
The court heard that litigant in person Harrold was made subject to a general civil restraint order in 2016, which has been extended twice since and was due to expire this week. She has brought a series of 15 claims against the NMC, the trust and others, mostly in the employment tribunal, including for discrimination, victimisation and unfair dismissal. She has also brought appeals and sought review of some decisions and the resulting costs order.
Harrold has made allegations of discrimination and harassment against solicitors instructed by the NMC, all of which have been found totally without merit. She has alleged that a solicitor had acted dishonestly and copied these complaints to the BSB and SRA, and made a complaint about a barrister. This complaint was dismissed by the BSB and no misconduct has ever been found against any lawyer involved. Harrold now says she will seek criminal investigations of the conduct of the NMC and its legal team.
The applicants said the persistent making of meritless complaints against legal professionals imposed a real burden on them, and could be seen as litigation by other means. They argued the complaints could be seen as an abuse of the process, which the court had the power to prevent.
The BSB opposed expanding the restraint order, saying such a step would be inconsistent with its duty and that costs were built into its budgets to deal with ‘hopeless complaints’.
The judge extended the order for another two years but refused the application to widen its scope.