Newcomer injunctions - to prevent unauthorised camps on local authority land

The Supreme Court has held that a new type of injunction may be granted to prevent unauthorised camps on local authority land.

The judgment in the case of Wolverhampton City Council and others v London Gypsies and Travellers and others [2023] UKSC 47 was handed down on 29 November 2023. It allows local authorities to apply for “newcomer injunctions” which prevents persons who might camp on the land in the future (but who have not done so yet) from occupying the land without prior consent. These differ from pre-existing injunctions where (i) only persons who have already trespassed on the land and (ii) can be identified by the Court, are prevented from setting up an encampment.

The question before the Supreme Court was whether the Court had the power to grant such wide ranging injunctions, given the draconian impact upon individuals who have not yet committed any wrong and the conflicting judgments handed down by lower Courts all over the Country. The Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, determined that the Court has the power to grant newcomer injunctions but that there were certain conditions which must be satisfied in order for an injunction of this type to be awarded. The conditions are:

  1. Clarity: The injunction must be clear in its terms, so that those affected by it understand what they can and cannot do.
  2. Specificity: The injunction must specify the land to which it applies and the acts which are prohibited.
  3. Necessity: The injunction must be necessary to prevent a real need to protect civil rights or enforce public law.
  4. Proportionality: The injunction must be proportionate, balancing the rights of the landowner against the rights of those who might wish to camp on the land and whether there are alternative sites available to them.
  5. Reviewability: The injunction must be reviewable, so that it can be varied or discharged if circumstances change.
  6. Compliance with proper procedure: the Court ought to give the persons affected with the opportunity to be heard and that the injunction is properly publicised so that it is brought to the attention of potentially affected persons at the site.

Given the increasing use of persons unknown injunctions targeted at protestors, the Court heard interventions from protest groups such as Liberty. The Court held that newcomer injunctions could, in theory, also be used to prevent individuals occupying land for the purpose of protest e.g. by blocking motorways. As with cases of newcomer injunctions used for encampments, in each case for protestors there must be a full assessment of proportionality of the injunction before it is awarded by the Court.

What next?

The exact criteria that needs to be satisfied in order to be awarded a newcomer injunction will inevitably be refined and detailed over time but for many local authorities the newcomer injunction may well be a welcome tool to protect sites in the local area.

If you would like to discuss options for injunctions or other court claims, please contact Richard Coates.

The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the date of publication and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.

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