Council Officers should be able to work without being threatened and abused by members of the public.

22 June 2017

PW has a grievance with Reigate & Banstead Borough Council. No one at the council is quite clear what it is although it seems to relate to a homelessness claim. He also seems to have disputes with Surrey County Council and his local MP, (and maybe others). He has chosen Reigate & Banstead to be his main point of complaint. His complaints have taken the form of barrage of emails sent to various council officers and copied to an assortment of others both inside and outside the council. These emails tend to be long, argumentative, often insulting and cumulatively distressing to the council officers who read them. Among the emails were threats to certain officers including one saying “your boss will end up with bullets being fired at him”.

A Community Protection Notice had no effect on the flow of emails and the Council then decided to seek an injunction under s1 of the Ant-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 in the Queen’s Bench Division represented by Joshua Swirsky. An initial injunction was obtained from Stuart-Smith J on a without notice application. There was a return date before Martin Chamberlain QC at which Mr W indicated a desire to contest the allegations and then a final hearing before HHJ Graham Robinson, at which Mr W did not attend.

All 3 judges accepted that this was a proper matter to bring before the Court and granted injunctions forbidding Mr W from contacting the Council save by post addressed to a named officer for legitimate purposes. Giving judgment HHJ Robinson held that the 2 stage test in s1(2)-(3) was satisfied: (i) that Mr W had engaged in anti-social behaviour, and (ii) that it was just and convenient to grant the injunction. Because of the threats that had been made by Mr W both Mr Chamberlain QC and HHJ Robinson added a Power of Arrest under s4 to a specific injunction relating to threats to council officers.

The case shows that when an aggrieved resident crosses the line and begins to abuse and/or threaten council employees who are just doing their jobs then the courts will be prepared to step in to give protection. It is encouraging to note that since the return date, when the consequences of a breach were made very clear to Mr W the flow of email traffic has come to a halt.

This case has been covered by the Surrey Mirror