A declared vexatious litigant and serial pest has been ordered to pay $5000 in legal costs after a Supreme Court judge found him guilty of “scandalising the court” by displaying signs outside his Ipswich home claiming the state’s highest court and two named judicial officers were corrupt.
Lawyers for Queensland Attorney-General Yvette last month successfully argued in the Brisbane Supreme Court that Russell Gordon Haig Mathews published and displayed offensive signs which scandalised the court and two named judicial officers, and as a result lessened public confidence in the impartiality and honesty of the officers and courts concerned.
Supreme Court Judge David Jackson, in his 18-page decision published on August 28, said the contempt application was launched after Mathews displayed two signs at his house next to a busy stretch of Brisbane Road, Booval, which asserted the “Court of Appeal’’, a judge of the Supreme Court and an Ipswich magistrate were “corrupt” or “likely corrupt”.
“The contempt alleged is of the variety known as scandalising the court,” Justice Jackson said.
The court was told the signs – which named a long-time resident Ipswich magistrate and Brisbane-based Supreme Court judge (which Proctor has opted not to name here) – were first recorded as being on display from 14 January last year, and that a senior Ipswich Magistrates and District Court registrar took photographs of the signs on 21 January.
Justice Jackson said the signs displayed at the Ipswich residence between 21 January and 13 March last year read: “Court of Appeal & Judge [name withheld]are CORRUPT HaigReport.com/CAM” and “Magistrate [name withheld] is likely CORRUPT HaigReport.com/MC”.
His Honour said correspondence was sent to Mathews requesting the signage be removed. However, Mathews replied to court officials with an “email attempting to justify his allegations of corruption”.
“In my view, the (Attorney-General) has proved, beyond reasonable doubt, that the respondent (Mathews) is responsible for the publication and display of the signs and the statements in them, and that publishing and displaying the statements in them constituted contempt by scandalising the court,” Justice Jackson said.
“The (A-G) sought the imposition of a fine as punishment for each of the contempts. In respect of the CA (Court of Appeal and Supreme Court judge) sign, the (lawyers for the A-G) submitted that a fine of $3000 should be imposed. In respect of the (magistrate) sign the (A-G) submitted that a fine of $2000 should be imposed.”
Justice Jackson opted against imposing a fine against Mathews, saying: “In the present case…an award of costs against the contemnor (Mathews) may be a sufficient order to ‘mark the disapproval of the court’ in the absence of any other order by way of punishment.
“In the result, I will order that the respondent (Mathews) pay the (A-G) applicant’s costs of the proceeding, fixed in the sum of $5000.”
Mathews has regularly used his home property to publish frequently updated billboards accusing various public figures and institutions of alleged corruption “over many years” and in April 2017 became the 25th person to be added to the list of declared Queensland vexatious litigants.
A ‘vexatious litigant’ is someone who persistently begins legal actions but doesn’t have sufficient grounds for doing so.
Vexatious proceedings include cases that are started or pursued: to abuse the process of a court or tribunal; to harass or annoy, to cause delay or detriment, or for another wrongful purpose; and, without fair or reasonable grounds.
Under the Vexatious Proceedings Act 2005, the Supreme Court can declare someone a vexatious litigant and prohibit them from starting proceedings, or a certain type of proceeding, in Queensland without the court’s permission.
Read the full decision.