High Court: State may immediately enforce costs order against litigants who claimed Covid vaccine was Bill Gates’ plan to depopulate Earth

High Court: State may immediately enforce costs order against litigants who claimed Covid vaccine was Bill Gates' plan to depopulate Earth

The High Court has refused to place a stay on a costs order obtained against litigants who had brought proceedings alleging that the Covid vaccine was a plan by Bill Gates to depopulate the Earth. The State successfully opposed a motion brought by the litigants for a protective costs order on the basis that the proceedings were an abuse of process.

Delivering judgment in the case, Mr Justice Michael Twomey stated that he would not place a stay on the costs order. It was reasoned that the immediate enforcement of the costs order would act as a “genuine deterrent” against litigants bringing baseless claims. Additionally, the court gave the State defendants liberty to apply for a stay on the proceedings until the legal costs were paid.


The plaintiffs (Sharon Browne, David Egan and Emmanuel Lavery) were litigants in person who brought proceedings seeking to halt the voluntary State vaccination programme for parents to have their children inoculated against Covid-19. The plaintiffs asserted that the Covid-19 vaccine was a bio-weapon which was part of Bill Gates’ plan to depopulate the world. The actions of the State were compared to those of the Nazis during World War II.

Before moving on with the substantive claim, the plaintiffs brought an application for a protective costs order. Such an order would mean that the plaintiffs were immune to a costs order in the event that they did not succeed in the substantive claim.

Mr Justice Twomey dismissed this application for a protective costs order, concluding that the underlying proceedings amounted to an abuse of process due to the “baseless” and “scandalous” claims made by the plaintiff.

The State sought its legal costs against the plaintiffs on the basis that it was entirely successful in resisting the application for a protective costs order. Prior to hearing the costs application, but after the substantive judgment had been delivered, the plaintiffs applied for the court to recuse itself. It was claimed that the judge had ignored the evidence provided by the plaintiffs in their case. The recusal application was rejected as any issues with the principal judgment were matters for an appeal.

In opposing the application for costs, the plaintiffs argued that the court had no power to make a costs order because the Courts Act 1924 was not properly commenced. It was said that the original commencement order was “missing”.

The plaintiffs also sought a case stated to the Supreme Court on whether the High Court was a “constitutional court” or a “statutory court” and on the legality of solicitors’ firms acting in cases as limited liability partnerships.

High Court

Mr Justice Twomey began his judgment by noting that the vast majority of litigants did not abuse court processes but that certain litigants did engage in this practice. The court referred to recent examples in cases such as O’Hara v. Ireland [2023] IEHC 268, Burke v. Workplace Relations Commission [2023] IEHC 360 and Fennell v. Collins [2019] IEHC 572.

The issue of spurious claims led to a significant amount of wasted court time, which was already a scarce resource. It was also the case that taxpayers’ money was used to defend these claims made against the State. The court held that the question for the costs application was how to deal with the costs of a pre-trial application where it was clear that the underlying basis of the claim was “simply preposterous” or unstateable.

The court was satisfied that the plaintiffs were entirely successful in defending the motion. The court considered whether it should measure the legal costs since it may lead to costs being calculated sooner. However, the court decided that it would not measure the costs against the plaintiffs since neither side wished for this to occur.

The court went on to give the defendants liberty to apply for a stay on the proceedings until the legal costs of the motion were paid by the plaintiffs. The court reasoned that, while access to the court was important, costs orders should be used to disincentivise an abuse of process (see Farrell v. Bank of Ireland).

It was held that requiring the plaintiffs to pay the legal costs before proceeding with the substantive claim would operate as a “genuine, rather than theoretical, financial disincentive” to the plaintiffs. The approach would ensure that scarce resource were not wasted in the litigation and could be preserved for other litigants in different cases.

The court held that requiring the plaintiffs to pay the costs before proceeding struck the correct balance between discouraging abuses of process and allowing the plaintiffs a right of access to the courts. It would also mean that the State could avoid further legal costs.

It was noted that litigants often did not feel any negative financial consequences for taking abusive cases if they did not have sufficient means to pay the legal costs. Additionally, even where they did have money, such litigants would not be required to pay legal costs until years into the future. By allowing the defendants the opportunity to stay proceedings until the payment of costs, the financial consequences for the unstateable case would be felt early in the process, the court said.

For the same reasons, the court decided that it would not place a stay on the costs order so that it would act as a genuine deterrent.

Finally, the court outlined that the Courts Act 1924 had been properly commenced as the relevant commencement orders were printed in the Iris Oifigiúil (see Coleman v. Clohessy [2022] IECA 279). As such, there was no basis for stating that the court did not have jurisdiction to make the costs order. Further, there was no jurisdiction for the court to state a case to the Supreme Court.


The court awarded the costs of the motion to the defendants which could be enforced immediately. Liberty was granted to the defendants to apply for a stay on proceedings until the costs of the motion were paid.

Browne and Ors. v. An Taoiseach and Ors. (No.3) [2023] IEHC 400

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