Convicted terrorists’ civil claim of mistreatment struck out for ‘collateral attack’ on earlier criminal proceedings


Re: Ahmed v Director General of Security Service [2020] EWHC 3458 (QB)

On 18 December 2008 the claimant was convicted of a series of terrorist offences.  Those offences included directing a terrorist organisation contrary to s.56 of the Terrorism Act 2000, membership of a terrorist organisation contrary to s.11 of that Act, and possession of terrorist articles contrary to s.57.  The following day he was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term to be served of 10 years.

In 2009 the Claimant issued proceedings against the Director General of MI5 and five other defendants claiming damages for false imprisonment, assault, battery, misfeasance in public office, negligence and breach of the Human Rights Act 1998 all of which claims arose out of his alleged treatment in the custody of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence Agency in Pakistan. He also sought a declaration that his rights under Articles 3 and 5 of the ECHR had been breached, contrary to the 1998 Act.

The defendants seek orders striking out the Claimant’s Statement of Case pursuant to CPR Part 3.4(2)(b) on the grounds that the case is an abuse of the process of the Court.  The Defendants contend that, by these civil proceedings, the Claimant is seeking “to re-litigate issues that have been decided against him by the Crown Court, and the Court of Appeal Criminal Division”.

Held: the applications by the Defendants for an order striking out the Claimant’s Statement of Case must succeed.

The mere fact that the claimant has commenced a civil action which covers some similar territory to that canvassed in the criminal proceedings does not necessarily entitle the Defendants to an order that the former is an abuse of the process of the Court.  It is necessary instead to reach a judgment as to whether the thrust of the claim in the one case goes to the heart of the other.  In the judge’s view, the essential elements of the case which the Claimant now seeks to pursue were adjudicated upon in the criminal trial. The Hunter principle applies and to permit the present case to proceed would bring the administration of justice into disrepute.  The civil action would amount to a collateral attack on the decisions given in the criminal proceedings.

Although it was accepted that that none of the particular material on which the claimant seeks to rely was available, with reasonable diligence, prior to the hearing before Saunders J, this material does not “transform” the case and merely amounts to additional evidence to similar, if weightier, effect to that considered in the previous hearings.

Joanna Buckley and Richard Hermer QC were involved in this case