Regina v Mildenhall Magistrates’ Court, Ex Parte Forest Heath District Council; Regina v North West Suffolk (Mildenhall) Magistrates’ Court ex parte Forest Heath District Council: CA 16 Apr 1997

The Magistrates appealed against an order of mandamus requiring a case to be stated after rejecting the request by the authority as frivolous. The authority had sought to prevent the emission of noise from land used for a Motocross racing track.
Held: The appeal succeeded. Magistrates refusing to state a case should give brief reasons as to why they considered the application to be frivolous.
The court gave some direction as to the meaning of ‘frivolous’ for this purpose. The only basis upon which a court can properly refuse to state a case is where it is ‘misconceived’ or ‘hopeless’.

Lord Bingham LCJ said: ‘I think it very unfortunate that the expression ‘frivolous’ ever entered the lexicon of procedural jargon. To the man or woman in the street ‘frivolous’ is suggestive of light-heartedness or a propensity to humour and these are not qualities associated with most appellants or prospective appellants. What the expression means in this context is, in my view, that the court considers the application to be futile, misconceived, hopeless or academic. That is not a conclusion to which justices to whom an application to state a case is made will often or lightly come. It is not a conclusion to which they can properly come simply because they consider their decision to be right or immune from challenge. Still less is it a conclusion to which they can properly come out of a desire to obstruct a challenge to their decision or out of misplaced amour propre. But there are cases in which justices can properly form an opinion that an application as frivolous. Where they do, it will be very helpful to indicate, however briefly, why they form that opinion. A blunt and unexplained refusal, as in this case, may well leave an applicant entirely uncertain as to why the justices regard an application futile, misconceived, hopeless or academic. Such uncertainty is liable to lead to unnecessary litigation and expenditure on costs. ‘
Lord Bingham LCJ
Times 16-May-1997, [1997] EWCA Civ 1575, (1997) 161 JP 401, [1997] COD 352, (1997) 161 JPN 602, [1998] Env LR 9
Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980 111(5), Environmental Protection Act 1990 79(1)
England and Wales
CitedNorman v Mathews 1916
The court set out the criteria for assessing whether an action was frivolous in law. Lush J said: ‘It must appear that his alleged cause of action is one which on the face of it is clearly one which no reasonable person could properly treat as bona . .
(1916) 85 LJ KB 857
CitedRegina v Southwark Crown Court ex parte Lynne Brooke Admn 15-Oct-1996
Simon Brown LJ said that if there was an arguable case for acceding to an application for a case to be stated, then the application was not frivolous. . .
[1996] EWHC Admin 114, [1997] COD 81
EndorsedBracegirdle v Oxley and Cobley 1947
The facts proved or admitted pointed inescapably to the conclusion that the drivers had driven dangerously. But the justices, in defiance of Divisional Court authority, concluded that the driving was not dangerous. The point has been decided . .
[1947] KB 349, [1947] 1 All ER 126
CitedRegina v Betting Licensing Committee Cardiff Petty Sessions, ex parte Les Croupiers Casino Limited 13-Apr-1992
The court considered what would constitute frivolous proceedings on a request to magistrates to state a case.
Held: The expression meant that there was no possible prospect of a case succeeding because there was no substance in the request . .
Unreported, 13 April 1992

Cited by:
CitedRegina v Knightsbridge Crown Court ex parte Foot Admn 29-Jan-1998
A device which tested for police radar speed check did not intercept a message between persons and therefore was not unlawful. ‘a signal in this context is not a mere electronic impulse but is rather a sign or something of meaning to another person. . .
Times 18-Feb-98, [1998] EWHC Admin 105
CitedRegina v Kettering Magistrates’ Court ex parte MRB Insurance Brokers Limited Admn 4-Apr-2000
A statement of an APR in the sale of a financial services product remained a price indication, and, if it was miscalculated, that was a misleading price indication, and criminal, despite provisions in the Consumer Credit legislation. What was given . .
Times 12-May-00, Gazette 18-May-00, [2000] EWHC Admin 320
CitedSkelton, Regina (on The Application of) v Winchester Crown Court Admn 5-Dec-2017
The Court was asked whether the Crown Court could properly refuse to state a case for the opinion of the divisional court, having convicted a defendant, on her appeal from the magistrates’ court, of an offence of common assault. She was evicted from . .
[2017] EWHC 3118 (Admin)

These lists may be incomplete.
Updated: 18 December 2020; Ref: scu.88558