LB Barking and Dagenham & Ors v Persons Unknown & Ors [2021] EWHC 1201 (QB)

On 12 May Nicklin J handed down judgment in LB Barking and Dagenham & Ors v Persons & Ors [2021] EWHC 1201 (QB), in which Traveller Injunctions and the issue of whether final injunctions against Persons Unknown bind only the parties to the proceedings and not ‘newcomers’ was considered. Caroline Bolton and Natalie Pratt appeared on behalf of eight of the Claimant Local Authorities.

Nicklin J considered four issues of principle:

  1. Whether the Court has the power – either generally or 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;
  2. 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 against either 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;
  3. In the event that the Court finds that it does not have the jurisdiction to grant a final injunction in the circumstances set out at (2) above, whether:

A. it is possible to identify the defendants in the category of Persons Unknown who were parties to the proceedings at the date the final order was granted and are bound by it; and

B. insofar as the final injunction binds newcomers, it should be discharged.

  1. 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.

Nicklin J, after hearing two days of argument, concluded:

  1. The Court does retain jurisdiction to reconsider the terms of a final injunction, and may modify or discharge the injunctions in light of changing circumstances, on the basis that the injunctions in question contained a liberty to apply and purported to bind newcomers who were not parties to the proceedings when the relevant order was granted;
  2. Traveller Injunctions are subject to both the Spycatcher and Canada Goose principle that a final injunction operates only between the parties to the proceedings, and do not fall into the exceptional category of civil injunction that can be granted contra mundum;
  3. Following (2) above, it was for the local authorities to identify anyone in the category of Persons Unknown at the time the relevant final injunction was granted. The final injunction will bind only those who could be identified as parties to the proceedings and, in the event that no parties can be identified, the injunction binds nobody;
  4. The Canada Goose principles (see [186] of the judgment) guard against a ‘rolling programme’ of interim injunctions such that, if those principles are followed, interim injunctive relief may be granted.

Nicklin J concluded his decision by setting out 10 safeguards to which claims against Persons Unknown should be subjected, including direction as to the description of the unknown defendant, service of the Claim Form, and the preparation for and listing of both the interim and final hearing of the claim (see [248] of the judgment).

Read the judgment here.