Can you get an injunction to prevent someone you don’t know from doing something they might not do?
This was a question that was recently considered by the High Court in London.
“O Captain! My Captain!”
Walt Whitman (1819-1892)
In scenes not dissimilar to something from the Dead Poets Society (1989), a group of students barricaded themselves into 8th-floor offices (‘the Premises’) at the University of Brighton “…to protest against the possibility of redundancies taking place amongst staff”.
An interim injunction had previously been granted requiring Persons Unknown to vacate the Premises, which they eventually did.
The University applied for a final quia timet injunction.
“A quia timet (‘since he fears’) injunction is one granted to prevent the occurrence of an actionable wrong or to prevent repetition of an actionable wrong in the future.”
The Court of Appeal previously identified six principles to be applied before such an injunction should be granted against persons unknown. Noting that “[n]o one has attended for Persons Unknown”, Mr Justice Constable then applied these six principles to the instant case:
- Sufficiently real and immediate risk
The risk of the protesters returning was a “strong possibility” or a “sufficiently real and immediate risk”.
- Impossible to name
It was plainly “impossible to name the persons… likely to commit the tort unless restrained.
- Possible to give notice
It was, however, possible “to give effective notice of the injunction”.
- Terms correspond to threat and5. Sufficiently clear and precise
The injunction sought was limited to “preventing Persons Unknown occupying the Premises”. This would not prevent any student from entering for ‘legitimate’ purposes.
- Clear limits
The Premises were defined. A time limit of 6 months was included.
Given the circumstances of the current case, the court also considered a seventh “essential element”:
- Gravity of likely harm
The harm resulting would “be so grave and irreparable” that a remedy in damages would be inadequate.
A Final Injunction was granted against Persons Unknown.
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