Page last updated at 16:00 GMT, Thursday, 21 January 2010

'Professional nimby' Terence Ewing's case dismissed

Belfast High Court
Mr Ewing's latest case was taken at Belfast High Court

The Sunday Times newspaper has won a legal bid to have breach of privacy proceedings brought by a London man struck out of the Belfast High Court.

Terence Patrick Ewing has been described as a "vexatious litigant" and a "professional nimby" with a "voracious appetite" for taking cases.

He is banned from taking a civil action in England and Wales unless he has the permission of a High Court judge.

On Thursday, a judge ruled that his latest case was "an abuse of process".

He had argued that an article published in the Sunday Times' Northern Ireland edition in February 2007 breached his right to privacy.

The court heard how the piece, headlined "Heritage Fakers Hold Builders to Ransom", alleged that a non-profit group known as the Euston Trust accepted a secret payment to drop objections to a development, despite claiming to campaign for the protection of Britain's architectural heritage.

Lack of honesty

According to the article the trust was run by Mr Ewing, although it stated that he emphatically denied ever having been offered or taken payments from developers.

He claimed the newspaper's publishers breached his right to privacy and/or confidentiality by publishing a number of items of personal information.

Ruling on the application to strike out his case, Lord Justice Coghlin described aspects of Mr Ewing's history and character as being "unattractive and indicative of a lack of personal integrity and honesty".

He said: "In my view the plaintiff's prolonged history of vexatious litigation, coupled with his determination to exploit the issue of litigation costs to his own advantage simply serve to confirm my conclusion that these proceedings constitute an abuse of the process of this court."

The judge pointed out that Mr Ewing had no connection with the Northern Ireland jurisdiction.

Vexatious Litigation
An action solely to harass or subdue an adversary
Vexatious litigants are banned from taking cases without permission from a judge

"No evidence has been produced that anyone in Northern Ireland who knew the plaintiff or was aware of his existence read the article in the Northern Ireland edition of the Sunday Times or drew the same to the attention of the plaintiff at any material time," he added.

"Indeed, the only reference by the plaintiff to publication to a person other than himself seems to have been the lengths to which he and his friend were prepared to go to expose themselves to publication.

"They travelled to Belfast for the purpose of attending Belfast City Library, accessed an online version of the article and downloaded it on to a memory stick for the purpose of obtaining a print out."

In a 29-page judgment which dealt with arguments on abuse of process and public interest, Lord Justice Coghlin concluded: "In the circumstances I propose to accede to the remainder of the defendant's application and strike out the plaintiff's proceedings in this jurisdiction."

Professional nimby

Mr Ewing tried to take a similar case in England but it was thrown out by Mr Justice Coulson who described him as a "serial litigator" with a position of "can't pay, won't pay".

The judge added that Mr Ewing's stated policy was to "deliberately cause the parties against whom he is proceeding to incur large sums unnecessarily by way of costs and then refusing to pay any costs ordered against him".

The Court of Appeal in the case R (Ewing and Another) v The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister said the plaintiff was a "professional nimby".

His attempt to take the case in Scotland after similarly going to a library there was heard before Lord Brodie, who decided that he should pay £15,000 into court, effectively a kind of legal deposit, before being allowed to proceed.

That case also alleged defamation, which Lord Brodie, who quoted extensively from the English judgement, said was without "serious merits".

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