Writs fly as claimant slips through benefits loophole

As this country lurches ever further towards the American approach to problem solving - "if it moves sue it" - a happy story of good British sense (and madness) emerged yesterday.

The central character in this particular farce is one Delroy Soares, described as an "unemployed man in his thirties, from Small Heath, Birmingham". Mr Soares spent pounds 47 on a CD-Rom, a device to hold computer data, but claimed his new purchase was faulty. Tests showed, however, that the CD-Rom apparently worked perfectly.

Undaunted, Mr Soares launched a pounds 3,000 damages claim for "stress" and the "dietary inconvenience" of missing meals while travelling to court on the bus. His original claim was dismissed, but the company who sold him the computer equipment offered pounds 47 as a gesture of goodwill.

It is at this stage that the great British legal system came into play. A delighted Mr Soares discovered that because he was on benefits he could issue as many writs as he wished at no charge.

Not content with attempting to sue the judge involved in his original trial, Mr Soares issued about 200 summonses against most of the judges on the Walsall and Birmingham circuit and several members of court staff. Oh, and one against Tony Blair and the Lord Chancellor. It is not clear how the leader of Her Majesty's Government was to blame.

Yesterday the case came to court - at an estimated cost of pounds 20,000 of taxpayers money - and was dealt with by Mr Justice Owen, sitting at Birmingham Crown Court.

The judge decided the actions were "frivolous and vexatious" and threw out 27 writs. He also stayed 80 other actions by Mr Soares, including the one against Mr Blair, describing the writs as "an abuse of the process of the court".

Apparently Mr Soares now wants to have all the judges involved arrested.

Speaking after the private hearing, Michael Baxendale, the solicitor for the CD company in the West Midlands, said the claims had been "pure madness".

Mr Baxendale said Mr Soares, who did not attend court, had tried to sue 62 judges, court staff and officials, the Treasury's solicitors department, Tony Blair, Lord Justice Auld, Lord Irvine and a High Court judge.

"Today he failed to attend and has now asked the police to issue arrest warrants against all the judges of the Birmingham circuit.

"Mr Justice Owen today dismissed the cases as frivolous, vexatious and an abuse of the process of the court."

Mr Baxendale added that Mr Soares had not had to pay 200 separate pounds 80 fees to the court officers when he lodged the writs which, added to the costs of court time and estimated pounds 1,000 legal costs for the defendants, had taken the bill for the actions to over pounds 20,000.

A further court hearing, possibly scheduled for next week, will decide whether Mr Soares will be officially declared "vexatious" and barred from lodging further claims.

Asked if Mr Soares's claims were the most bizarre he had encountered in his legal career, the solicitor said: "No. A gentleman who shall remain blameless once stood up in Epsom county court, claimed he was Henry VIII, and asked for the judge to be dismissed."

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