Wolverhampton City Council and others (Respondents) v London Gypsies and Travellers and others (Appellants) [2023] UKSC 47 (on appeal from [2022] EWCA Civ 13)

Supreme Court LEX

On 29 November 2023 the Supreme Court gave judgment in this case, which concerned issues of the principles to be applied when a court is considering whether to grant an injunction to local authorities preventing unauthorised encampments by Gypsies and Travellers. The major issues arose from the fact that the targets of the injunction might be unidentified and unknown at the time of the making of the injunction – ie were “newcomers”. The appeal was brought by London Gypsies and Travellers and two other organisations who were accepted to have standing and, importantly, had the benefit of a protective costs order granted by the Supreme Court itself.

The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, though on the basis of reasoning that was significantly different from that of the Court of Appeal. Its judgment involved a detailed review of the basis on which “newcomer injunctions” can be granted, which will have significant implications in other situations such as protests. The Court held that there was power to grant newcomer injunctions; but that it should only exercise this power in circumstances where there is a compelling need to protect civil rights or enforce public law that is not adequately met by other available remedies. The reasoning of the court rejected the thought that there is a relevant distinction between interim and final injunctions for these purposes and the idea that a “newcomer” could become a party to the proceedings after the injunction had been made by committing the prohibited act; both matters that had played a major role in previous case-law.

The safeguards discussed in the judgment are important and it recognizes that they will evolve over time. Procedural safeguards must be built into the procedure for the application and the terms of the order itself. Newcomer injunctions should be limited in time and should not apply to a disproportionately wide geographical area.

Richard Drabble KC (with Marc Willers, Tessa Buchanan and Owen Greenall, and instructed by Community Law Partnership (Birmingham)) appeared for the Appellants.

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