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South Cambridgeshire District Council v Persons Unknown [2004] EWCA Civ 1280, [2005] JPL 680

DATE: 17 Sep 2004


A local planning authority sought a pre-emptive injunction in the county court to prevent the stationing of caravans on empty land. There were strong grounds for fearing that it would be occupied by gypsies, but the authority was not able to identify any particular defendants.  The County Court judge, while sympathetic to the authority’s concerns, held that he did not have power to make an injunction against unidentifiable defendants.  He considered that CCR O.49 contemplated defendants who could be individually identified (eg by a photograph or by description) albeit that they could not be named.  The Court of Appeal (Brooke LJ and Clarke LJ) disagreed and proceeded to make an injunction against ‘persons unknown … causing or permitting hardcore to be laid … or caravans … to be stationed …’ on the site.  The fact that defendants could not be identified at the time the injunction was made and that the injunction could potentially affect an infinite number of defendants did not matter.  It was, however, necessary that the description of the defendants should be as precise as possible.

Richard Langham appeared for the local planning authority.