Killer deemed a vexatious litigant

By Jewel Topsfield
October 20, 2004

Hoddle Street mass murderer Julian Knight has been banned from launching legal battles over his prison grievances for the next 10 years.

Knight will be required to seek Supreme Court permission before bringing legal proceedings after Justice Tim Smith yesterday granted an application by Attorney-General Rob Hulls to have him declared a vexatious litigant.

Knight, 35, has instigated legal proceedings 16 times in the past three years over his treatment in the prison system; the court found that 13 were vexatious. Justice Smith said in the Supreme Court yesterday that Knight, 35, “habitually” pursued hopeless proceedings. “He is obviously an intelligent man but refuses to accept the obvious soundness of the decisions given against him and has demonstrated a habit of pursuing vexatious claims and doing so persistently,” he said in his judgement.

Knight is serving a 27-year jail term after killing seven people and wounding 19 in a shooting rampage in 1987. His legal challenges have cost the Justice Department more than $250,000. In the most recent claims, heard in the Supreme Court last October, Knight alleged that Barwon Prison officers opened his legal mail, which is privileged. He also claimed he was unfairly disciplined when nails concealed in pens and knives secreted in a magazine were found in his cell.

Justice Philip Cummins dismissed the claims, describing the complaints as unjustified and at best nitpicking. As a vexatious litigant, Knight will have to demonstrate the possible merit of any case before authorities respond to it.

Mr Hulls yesterday welcomed the decision. “No person . . . should be able to abuse the court system, cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and take up court time by continually bringing vexatious, frivolous and unmeritorious claims,” he said. “It’s only in pretty extraordinary circumstances that an attorney-general would make an application to have someone declared a vexatious litigant,” he said. “I believe that the matter of Julian Knight was quite extraordinary.”

In the past 10 years, five Victorians have been declared vexatious litigants by the Supreme Court.

[The above article appeared in the Australian newspaper The Age (on-line edition) as dated.]

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