June 21st, 2024 by James Goudie KC

In MUEEN-UDDIN v SSHD (2024) UKSC 21 the Supreme Court considers abuse of process.  The Courts have an inherent power to prevent their processes from being misused, or abused, in a way which would be manifestly unfair to one or more of the parties or would otherwise bring the administration of justice into disrepute.  The primary purpose of this power is to preserve public confidence in the administration of justice.  There are two well-established categories of abusive proceedings. The first is known as “Hunter abuse” following the House of Lords’ decision in Hunter v Chief Constable of the West Midlands Police [1982] AC 529.  The second is “Jameel abuse” following the Court of Appeal decision in Jameel (Yousef) v Down Jones & Co Inc [2005] EWCA Civ 75.

Hunter abuse arises where a claimant uses proceedings to mount a collateral attack on a final decision made by a court of competent jurisdiction in earlier proceedings.  A claimant who wishes to challenge a decision made against him should normally do so by appealing that decision.  The courts should not generally permit him to pursue new proceedings in order to re-litigate matters which he had a full opportunity to contest in the earlier proceedings.  Allowing this would give rise to a risk that the decisions in the two sets of proceedings would be inconsistent, bringing the administration of justice into disrepute.

Not every collateral challenge to earlier proceedings will amount to Hunter abuse. The Hunter principle only applies where the earlier proceedings were fair, and where they provided the claimant with a full opportunity to contest the court’s decision.

The Supreme Court rejects a submission that the court can consider matters relevant to Hunter and Jameel abuse together, so that even if neither type of abuse can be established on its own, considerations relevant to each of them can contribute cumulatively to the conclusion that a claim is an abuse of process. Hunter abuse and Jameel abuse protect different aspects of the public interest and have different rationales.  The considerations relevant to each principle cannot therefore simply be lumped together.

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