Injunctions against persons unknown continue to present challenges for the Court.
On 2 July 2020, with pubs set to reopen for "Super Saturday", Hackney Council was concerned about various forms of anti-social behaviour taking place in London Fields.
It sought an emergency interim injunction seeking to prevent such activity and succeeded. The High Court granted a short-term injunction preventing all members of the public from drinking alcohol in London Fields until 9 July 2020. The Court had reservations about the unusually wide-reaching order but cited the extraordinary circumstances and granted an order which was short in duration.
At the hearing on 9 July 2020, Hackney Council applied for the injunction to be extended for a year. The High Court’s notable concerns were as follows:
- The Order bound all members of the public entering London Fields. It was nonsensical and impermissibly wide for Hackney Council to categorise all persons using London Fields as potentially committing a public nuisance. The High Court therefore gave permission to Hackney Council to amend the Claim Form and define the persons unknown by reference to precise categories such as “those organising, attending or participating in an unlicensed music event and/or rave(s)”; and
- The injunction would prevent any alcohol consumption which, of itself, is not a public nuisance.
In light of the above concerns, the High Court granted a three-month injunction with substantially revised terms. In particular, the categories of Defendants were redefined and more specific acts were attached to the class of Defendants (the terms of the Order can be found here).
This case is an important reminder (following other recent cases) that careful consideration must be given to the description of unknown Defendants (or “persons unknown”); precision, qualification and forethought is required to ensure the Defendants are identifiable and that the claim will "bite" on all intended Defendants.
It will be interesting to see the Court's approach at trial in October 2020 and the outcome given the High Court’s "considerable doubts about the legal merits" of the claim.