Supreme Court confirms availability of courts to grant “newcomer” injunctions against unknown persons

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louise lanzkron Module
Louise Lanzkron

Dispute Resolution Knowledge & Development Lawyer
UK

In the Wolverhampton City Council and others v London Gypsies and Travellers and others [2023] UKSC 47 judgment handed down on 29 November 2023, the Supreme Court unanimously confirmed that the courts have the power to grant “newcomer” injunctions against unknown persons. As made clear in the judgment itself, this brand-new type of injunction, with the potential to be ordered against anyone in the world, will be of significance in many contexts beyond the immediate facts of the dispute before the court which concerned trespass by gypsies and travellers: for example, the prevention of cyber-crime, industrial and environmental protest disputes, breaches of confidence and IP rights and in preventing some of the unlawful activity connected to social media and other on-line activities.

Background

The Supreme Court appeal was concerned with several conjoined cases in which injunctions were sought by local authorities to prevent unauthorised encampments by Gypsies and Travellers. As summarised in the judgment:

Since the members of a group of Gypsies or Travellers who might in future camp in a particular place cannot generally be identified in advance, few if any of the defendants to the proceedings were identifiable at the time when the injunctions were sought and granted. Instead, the defendants were described in the claim forms as “persons unknown”, and the injunctions similarly enjoined “persons unknown”.

Injunctions were granted by the courts but in many cases, at the time the injunctions were granted the “persons unknown” had not yet committed or threatened to commit any unlawful activity. Generally, the Gypsies and Travellers were not present at the hearings and so there was no-one to make representations on their behalf. Further, the injunctions were granted for lengthy periods of time. Applications were made to extend…

Full article available on Disputes +

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