The Supreme Court recently handed down its decision in the case of Wolverhampton City Council and Others v London Gypsies and Travellers and Others  UKSC 47. The Court had to consider injunctions against “persons unknown”, who are unidentified and who have not yet performed or threatened to perform the acts which the injunction would prohibit. These people would be in the category of “Newcomers”. The Court, therefore, considered on what basis the so called “Newcomer Injunction” could be granted and the grounds and safeguards for coming to that conclusion.
The Appeal before the Supreme Court arose from a number of injunctions that had been obtained by different local authorities for injunctions to prevent Gypsies and Travellers being able to camp on local authority land in the period between 2015 and 2020. These injunctions had been obtained against “persons unknown”, because at the time of applying for such injunctions, the Gypsies and Travellers could not be identified in advance. The injunctions sought, referred to unknown persons who had yet to commit the trespass or unlawful activity on the local authority land.
From around mid-2020 the local authorities had made applications either to extend or vary the injunctions, which had a limited period of time in which they were affective, and as a result of this, the High Court decided it was necessary to review the newcomer injunctions, which directly affected the Gypsies and Travellers. In that hearing, the High Court concluded that it did not have the power to grant newcomer injunction in the longer term. This resulted in Orders discharging the newcomer injunctions which had been obtained by the local authorities.
This decision was appealed and the Court of Appeal held that the Court did have the power to grant newcomer injunctions.
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeal and held that the Court did have the power to grant newcomer injunctions.
The Supreme Court did, however, establish a series of safeguards and grounds that were required to be considered in relation to applications for newcomer injunctions:
- There must be a compelling need for the injunction for the protection of civil rights, which are not adequately met by any other remedies that are available to the party.
- As newcomer injunctions are made without notice, procedural steps should be taken to ensure the rights of newcomers are protected and that all reasonable steps are taken to notify those affected of the application.
- The party applying for the newcomer injunction has a strict duty of disclosure, which includes ensuring the Court is aware of any matter which the newcomer may have raised in opposition to the making of the newcomer injunction.
- The newcomer injunctions will be for a period of time and to the appropriate geographical area applicable to the facts of each case.
- The Court must be satisfied that it is just and convenient in all the circumstances that the newcomer injunction is granted.
This judgment provides clarity for those seeking injunctions for a longer period of time against persons unknown and for those in the communities facing such applications for injunctions against them. There is no guarantee when applying for a newcomer injunction that the court will automatically grant this and the safeguards are in place to ensure the correct procedural steps are taken. Each case will turn on its own facts, but this is useful guidance for the parties involved.