Court Imposes Extended Civil Restraint Order in Dr Piepenbrock v Paul Michell Case

Citation: [2024] EWHC 544 (KB)
Judgment on


This article analyses the judgment in the case of Dr Theodore Piepenbrock v Paul Michell & Ors [2024] EWHC 544 (KB), focusing on the legal principles applied and the rationale behind these applications. The case, presided over by Mrs Justice Tipples DBE, navigates a range of legal concepts, primarily within civil procedure concerning claim validity, abuse of process, and restraint orders in the context of persistent litigation.

Key Facts

The claimant, Dr Theodore Piepenbrock, brought forth multiple claims against various defendants, including Paul Michell, a barrister, the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), and members of the Cloisters Chambers. These claims encompassed allegations ranging from defamation to harassment, including negligence and breach of statutory duty. The grounds for these claims related to statements on Cloisters’ website, alleged mishandling of grievances by LSE, and sexual misconduct incidents involving Dr Piepenbrock.

The judgment focused on the merits of the arguments presented, the coherence and validity of the claims, whether previous rulings on similar facts constituted a bar to current proceedings, and the appropriateness of imposing a restraint order on the claimant due to his history of litigation against the LSE.

The court employed various legal principles to address the claims and the applications presented:

Cause of Action Estoppel, Issue Estoppel, and Abuse of Process

The court held that the principles of cause of action estoppel and issue estoppel barred relitigation of claims or issues previously decided between the parties. It applied these principles to dismiss the allegations that had been adjudicated in previous litigation instances, thereby preventing Dr Piepenbrock from asserting similar claims against the LSE. This ruling relied on case law such as Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd v Zodiac Seats UK Ltd [2014] AC 160 and Arnold v National Westminster Bank [1991] 2 AC 93.

Vicarious Liability

The judgment addressed the absence of legal responsibility of the LSE for publications made by independent barristers from Cloisters Chambers, where Mr. Michell’s chambers are situated. The court referenced the need for an employer-employee relationship to establish vicarious liability as set out in Various Claimants v Barclays Bank [2020] AC 973.

Harassment and Tort Claims

The court found Dr Piepenbrock’s allegations insufficient to constitute harassment under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. For a claim to succeed, a “persistent and deliberate course of unreasonable and oppressive conduct” is required, as clarified in Hayes v Willoughby [2013] 1 WLR 935.

Defamation, Malicious Falsehood, and Limitation Acts

The court addressed defamation and malicious falsehood claims against the defendants, highlighting the one-year limitation period prescribed in section 4A of the Limitation Act 1980 and the Defamation Act 2013. It determined that the claims were time-barred and did not satisfy the serious harm test required under defamation law.

Extended Civil Restraint Order (ECRO)

The ECRO was considered because of Dr Piepenbrock’s persistent litigation against the LSE, found to be without merit. The principles from Sartipy v Tigris Industries [2019] 1 WLR 5892 and AG v Barker [2000] 1 FLR 759 were applied, establishing that the actions of Dr Piepenbrock amounted to “habitual and persistent litigation”.


The court struck out the claimant’s case against all defendants as disclosing no reasonable grounds for bringing the claim and as being totally without merit. Additionally, the court denied the claimant’s application to lift a stay on proceedings and imposed an ECRO for three years to prevent further meritless litigation against the LSE.


In Dr Theodore Piepenbrock v Paul Michell & Ors, the court demonstrated a robust application of legal principles governing civil proceedings, explaining that once matters have been decided, they cannot be re-litigated. This judgment also underscores the courts’ powers to regulate continuous and futile litigation attempts through the imposition of civil restraint orders, serving as a testament to the legal system’s promotion of finality and efficiency in litigation.