Injunctions against the Unknown


Conventionally, possession orders are the main method used to evict trespassers. However, the courts are now issuing injunctions to prevent trespass happening before the action has occurred.

Injunctions are a discretionary remedy requiring a party to either perform or to refrain from taking specific actions. These can be issued against named parties or “Persons Unknown” and if the terms of the injunction are deliberately breached, the offending party may be held in contempt of court and subject to fines or imprisonment.

The recent case of Vastint Leeds BV v Persons Unknown [2018] EHWC 2456 (Ch) (“Vastint”) has given guidance for when a final injunction should be granted against “Persons Unknown”, including a two stage test:

  1. Is there a strong probability that, unless restrained by injunction, an unknown party would act in breach of the claimant’s rights?
  2. If an unknown party did act in breach, would the harm resulting be so grave and irreparable that a remedy of damages would be inadequate?

In Vastint there had previously been caravans trespassing on and fly tipping at the property, which persuaded the judge that there was a strong probability that a trespass would occur. The court in this case, and in Canary Wharf Investments Ltd & Ors v Brewer [2018] EHWC 1760 (QB) earlier last year, emphasised the importance of wording the injunction narrowly, to catch those engaging in the unlawful conduct and for a duration when the site will be unoccupied.

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