London Borough of Havering (and others) v Persons Unknown (and others)  EWHC 2648 (QB) was a case heard in the Queen’s Bench Division in October 2021 and relates to injunctions and abuse of process. It is always tempting when an injunction has been sought and an interim order granted that an applicant sees an interim order as the end of the matter. After all, the respondent has been forced to cease doing whatever it was that was abhorrent to the applicant. However, as most practitioners understand, under CPR 25 the interim injunction is only the beginning of the process.
This was the situation brought before The Honourable Mr Justice Nicklin on 4 October 2021. A number of local authorities (too many to mention in this blog) had applied for interim injunctions in relation to travellers and gypsies. A number of traveller and gypsies support groups had joined the proceedings as interveners.
The common thread between all the local authorities was that they had all applied for injunctions to remove travellers and gypsies from various sites around the country. A number of different issues applied to each applicant but the result was the same. The applicants had applied for injunctions on an emergency basis, had obtained interim injunctions but had not progressed the matters to a final hearing nor applied for a final injunction. The court considered whether this was acceptable.
Decision of Nicklin J
The arguments of the local authorities are too varied to be included in the scope of this blog. However practitioners should read the judgment in full, as a number of the reasons for delay provided by the local authorities will have been encountered before in private practice.
Nicklin J considered each separate local authority’s reason for delay, and then gave joint reasons for his judgment at paragraph 89.
” … The delays in prosecuting their claim were substantial and have not been adequately explained or excused. Each local authority demonstrated a complacency even insouciance towards the need to progress the claims … As each claimant had been granted an interim injunction substantially in the terms of the final order it sought, there was no effective incentive to progress the claim expeditiously. As no defendant has engaged with the proceedings, there was no opposition to this prolonged inactivity. There were cost implications of progressing the claims, a factor that was clearly influencing decisions taken by at least [some of the local authorities].”
At paragraph 95 of his judgment, Nicklin J stated that he does not think that it would be appropriate to discharge the injunction. He stated that he was satisfied that the abuse of the court’s process was not intentional and that the better and more proportionate response was to ensure that each of the claims was managed as expeditiously as possible to a final hearing. He also commented that he was satisfied that the finding of abuse of process against a local authority was sufficient sanction.
Practitioners should be urged to read this judgment in full. The reasons given for delay by the various local authorities in the matter ranged from COVID-19 to waiting for other cases to be decided. Practitioners will note that some of the reasons given are reasons that have been given previously in applications for extension of time for various functions within the CPR.
Finally, it is an interesting note that Nicklin J did not revoke the interim injunctions for abuse of process. This is a sensible decision as undoubtedly had he revoked the injunction the local authorities would have reapplied for such injunctions.