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Lawbite: Injunctions – the ‘intention’ is clear

  • United Kingdom
  • Litigation and dispute management
  • Real estate
  • Real estate litigation - LawBite

27-01-2020

CUADRILLA BOWLAND LIMITED & ORS (Claimants/Respondents) v (1-3) PERSONS UNKNOWN (Defendants) & (1) KATRINA LAWRIE (2) LEE WALSH (3) CHRISTOPHER WILSON (Appellants/Respondents to Committal Applications) [2020] EWCA Civ 9.

The Court of Appeal has held that references in an injunction against “persons unknown” to a defendant’s “intention” does not render the injunction insufficiently clear or certain.  As such the Court was not prevented from enforcing the injunction by committing the appellants to prison following a breach.

The appellants appealed against their committal to prison for contempt of court for breach of an injunction preventing unlawful forms of protest against Cuadrilla’s activities at its site at Preston New Road in Lancashire. The appeal was advanced on two grounds being that the first instance judge was:

1.    wrong in committing the appellants as the relevant terms of the injunction were not sufficiently clear or certain to be enforceable where they referred to prohibited conduct with reference to the ‘intention’ of the person concerned; and, alternatively,

2.    wrong in imposing sentences (suspended orders for imprisonment) which were too harsh.

Save for one variation to the committal order which saw a reduction in the sentence in relation to one breach of the injunction, the appeal was otherwise dismissed.

Key points

  • it is established that an injunction must be clear and certain in order that those affected can know what they must not do. The decision confirms, however, that there is nothing objectionable about referring to a defendant’s intention in an injunction and that that the term "intention" does not have any special legal meaning and is not difficult for a member of the public to understand
  • a reminder that, where necessary to do justice, an injunction may be cast in terms which prohibits otherwise lawful conduct
  • a welcome decision for industries subject to “direct action” protests particularly following the Court of Appeal decision in Boyd v Ineos Upstream [2019] EWCA Civ 515 which has had a significant impact on the availability and form of injunctions against ‘direct action’ protest activities
  • the decision provides useful guidance on the approach to sanctions for contempt of court arising from non-violent protest activity