Grovit and others v Doctor and others: HL 24 Apr 1997

The plaintiff began a defamation action against seven defendants. Each had admitted publication but pleaded justification. The claims against the fourth to seventh defendants were dismissed by consent, and the third had gone into liquidation. The remaining two defendants, acting in person, applied for the action to be struck-out for want of prosecution. The plaintiff’s delay in proceeding with the case against the remaining two defendants was, as in the present case, somewhat over two years and the judge before whom the defendants’ strike-out application was heard was ‘quite satisfied . . on the evidence that [the appellant] has had literally no interest in pursuing this litigation’.
Held: A party who was guilty of commencing proceedings with no real intention of concluding them, was at risk of being accused of an abuse of process. This case was an example of a gagging writ in defamation proceedings.
Lord Woolf said: ‘This conduct on the part of the appellant constituted an abuse of process. The courts exist to enable parties to have their disputes resolved. To commence and to continue litigation which you have no intention to bring to conclusion can amount to an abuse of process.’


Lord Goff of Chieveley, Lord Woolf, Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead, Lord Steyn, Lord Clyde


Gazette 21-May-1997, Times 25-Apr-1997, [1997] UKHL 13, [1997] 1 All ER 417, [1997] 1 WLR 640


House of Lords, Bailii


England and Wales


Appeal fromGrovit and Another v Doctor and Others CA 28-Oct-1993
A delay in the prosecution of a libel case can be interpreted as an abuse of process. A claimant must pursue his case with vigour, and the court should be ready to resist the use of actions to gag defendants. The court asked whether the appellant’s . .
CitedBirkett v James HL 1977
Exercise of Power to Strike Out
The court has an inherent power to strike out an action for want of prosecution, and the House set down the conditions for its exercise. The power is discretionary and exercisable only where (a) there has been inordinate and inexcusable delay and . .
CitedDepartment of Transport v Chris Smaller (Transport) Ltd HL 1989
An application had been made to strike out a claim for want of prosecution. The writ was not issued until the end of the relevant six year limitation period and then not served for a further nine months. The period of inexcusable delay after action . .
CitedPractice Statement (Judicial Precedent) HL 1966
The House gave guidance how it would treat an invitation to depart from a previous decision of the House. Such a course was possible, but the direction was not an ‘open sesame’ for a differently constituted committee to prefer their views to those . .
CitedWestminster City Council v Clifford Culpin and partners CA 18-Jun-1987
It was questionable whether plaintiffs should be allowed the benefit of the full limitation period with virtual impunity where the facts are known and there is no obstacle to the speedy institution and prosecution of claims. . .

Cited by:

CitedFay v Chief Constable of Bedfordshire Police QBD 6-Feb-2003
The claimant had begun proceedings for the return of money held by the respondent. His action was stayed for inactivity, and the respondent later had the claim struck out on the basis that it would be an abuse of process to proceed.
Held: The . .
CitedDaniels v Griffiths CA 27-Nov-1997
The claimant appealed against dismissal of his claim in defamation against the defendant. He was a prisoner convicted of rape and subject to life imprisonment. He sought parole, and said that the defendant had slandered him before the Parole Board. . .
CitedAdelson and Another v Associated Newspapers Ltd QBD 19-Dec-2007
Applications were launched with in defamation proceedings to seek to recover damages for parties who had not previously been part of the proceedings.
Held: The amendments were refused. The new claimants were now out of time, and it was clear . .
CitedIcebird Ltd v Winegardner PC 2-Jun-2009
(The Bahamas) The parties disputed the existence of a right of way. The appellant issued proceedings to claim that the right of way had been obstructed. After inordinate delay, it was struck out.
Held: The appeal succeeded. There had been . .
CitedWahab v Khan and Others; In re Abdus Sattar Sheikh deceased ChD 12-Apr-2011
The claimant had asked the court to revoke the probate granted in his brother’s estate. He appealed now against a strike out of his request. He alleged that the will was a forgery. The executor’s and defendants were not relations of the deceased, . .
CitedMorrissey v McNicholas and Another QBD 26-Oct-2011
The claimant musician alleged defamation, saying that the defendant had accused him of being a right wing racist. The defendant now applied to strike out the claim as an abuse of process because of the claimant’s delay.
Held: The application . .
CitedPanamax Star Owners and or Bailees of The Cargo of The Ship) v Auk (Owners of The Ship) AdCt 18-Dec-2013
A strike out was sought alleging gross delay and an abuse of process.
Held: The strike out was granted both as to the claim and counter claims.
Hamblen J discussed first the issues surrounding delay: ‘In summary, the authorities provide . .
CitedWillers v Joyce and Another (Re: Gubay (Deceased) No 1) SC 20-Jul-2016
Parties had been involved in an action for wrongful trading. This was not persisted with but the claimant sought damages saying that the action was only part of a campaign to do him harm. This appeal raised the question whether the tort of malicious . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Defamation, Litigation Practice

Updated: 31 May 2022; Ref: scu.158888