Sarah Salmon in High Court case deciding issues of principle in local authority claims for injunctions against ‘persons unknown’

January 27, 2021

Sarah Salmon is acting for the London Borough of Hounslow in a High Court case to decide issues of principle in local authority claims for injunctions against ‘persons unknown’.  The case also involves 14 other local authorities. Sarah is led by Ranjit Bhose QC.

A number of local authorities have sought injunctive relief on statutory grounds under section 222 Local Government Act 1972, section 187B Town and Country Planning Act 1990, section 130 Highways Act 1980 and section 1 Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 against, inter alia, persons unknown.

The claims are brought to enforce public rights:

  • to restrain what would anyway be criminal conduct and public nuisance, and
  • to prevent unlawful actions which materially interfere with the rights and privileges of members of the public to access and enjoy publicly-owned open spaces.

The decision in this case could have much wider application as local authorities have also used the same statutory provisions to seek injunctions against ‘persons unknown’ to restrain raves and car cruising (among other things).

What issues is the High Court considering?

After hearing from 15 local authorities (including Hounslow), the Intervener (London Gypsies and Travellers; Friends, Families and Travellers; and, National Federation of Gypsy Liaison Groups) and an Advocate to the Court, the High Court will determine:

  • whether the court has the power – either generally under CPR 3.1(7) or otherwise, or specifically having regard to the particular terms of the relevant order – to case manage the proceedings and/or to vary or discharge injunctions that have previously been granted by final order.
  • Whether the court has jurisdiction, and/or whether it is correct in principle, generally or in any relevant category of claim, to grant a claimant local authority final injunctive relief either against “persons unknown” who are not, by the date of the hearing of the application for a final injunction, persons whom the law regards as parties to the proceedings, and/or on a contra mundum basis.
  • If there is no jurisdiction to grant such final injunctive relief in all or any of the cases identified above, in what circumstances (if any) should the court be prepared to grant interim injunctive relief against “persons unknown” defendants in such a claim, in a form in which final relief would not be granted?

Background to the London Borough of Hounslow’s involvement

Between 1 May 2018 and 10 June 2019, London Borough of Hounslow, its officers and the police had to deal with 40 incursions onto and occupation of its land. Such unlawful occupation of land often involves a large number of vehicles and is accompanied by fly-tipping and the depositing of waste (including commercial building waste).

It may also associated with anti-social behaviour and criminal activity. It brought a claim pursuant to statutory powers conferred by section 222 Local Government Act 1972 and section 187B Town and Country Planning Act 1990.