Newcomer injunctions, Gypsies and Travellers
What is a newcomer injunction?
Newcomer injunctions are a wholly new form of injunction, which are granted without prior notice against persons who cannot be known at the time the order is made.
38 local authorities obtained injunctions to prevent unauthorised encampments by Gypsies and Travellers from camping on local authority land without permission. The local authorities relied on a range of statutory provisions, including planning legislation which enables the court to grant an injunction to restrain an actual or anticipated breach of planning control and common law causes of action, such as trespass.
The injunctions were addressed to “persons unknown” because the Gypsies and Travellers who might wish to camp on a particular site could not generally be identified in advance. At the time the injunctions were granted, these unknown persons, or newcomers, had not yet committed such unlawful acts.
From around mid-2020, the local authorities applied to extend or vary the injunctions as they were coming to an end. At one hearing, the High Court Judge decided that there was a need to review all newcomer injunctions affecting Gypsies and Travellers. He gave the appellants, which included London Gypsies and Travellers (an organisation that works in partnership with individuals and groups from the Gypsy and Traveller community) permission to intervene so that the interests of Gypsies and Travellers could be represented. He subsequently found that the court did not have the power to grant newcomer injunctions except on a short-term, interim basis and proceeded to discharge the newcomer injunctions obtained by the local authorities.
The local authorities appealed successfully, and the London Gypsies and Travellers organisation, and others appealed to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court unanimously dismissed the appeal and held that the court has the power to grant newcomer injunctions in certain circumstances and subject to procedural safeguards. It is considered that they are a valuable and proportionate remedy in appropriate cases.
However, such injunctions will only be granted in certain circumstances, and subject to certain safeguards. These safeguards will evolve over time in the light of the experience of the courts where applications for newcomer injunctions are made. These safeguards are likely to involve the local authority being able to demonstrate a compelling need to protect civil rights or enforce public law that is not adequately met by any other remedies. Secondly, a requirement to advertise the application to enable fair representation before the injunction is made. Thirdly, a requirement to display the injunction once granted, in a prominent location. In such cases, local authorities will be under a strict duty to disclose to the court any matter that a newcomer might raise to oppose the making of an order. Fourthly, newcomer injunctions should be limited so that they are not disproportionately long or of a disproportionately wide geographical area.