All councils that have taken out “wide injunctions” preventing Gypsies and Travellers from camping on open land may have to withdraw them if a new High Court hearing – due in the New Year – goes against them.
This new hearing, centering around Enfield Council, follows a landmark legal ruling in early 2020 saying that Bromley Council’s “wide” injunction preventing Gypsies and Travellers from stopping on open land was a breach of the Human Rights Act. It also follows an equally important ruling in a wide injunction action involving protesters (Canada Goose v Persons Unknown). Now the implications of those rulings are being tested as Enfield and other councils around the country look to extend or renew similar injunctions that were taken out before the Bromley ruling.
The early signs are that councils will not be allowed to issue wide injunctions as they have in the past. At a High Court hearing on 28th September, Enfield Council withdrew its application to extend its injunction order – the first “wide” injunction against “persons unknown” granted to a London borough – until October 2023.
At a further hearing in the case on 2nd October , a High Court judge ruled that the order was not valid because the council did not properly serve legal documents with regard to their original injunction in October 2017 in a way that gave potential defendants the chance to come forward and argue their case in the courts. An application for a fresh interim injunction was refused.
“It might be possible that a number of other existing orders are not valid for similar reasons,” said Ilinca Diaconescu from London Gypsies and Travellers, who attended the Enfield hearings with legal representation for LGT from Owen Greenhall at Garden Court Chambers and Chris Johnson at Community Law Partnership.
The judge at the hearing pointed to the significant legal difficulties in granting an injunction order against “persons unknown” and said the Enfield case raises issues of wider public interest.
Enfield’s application for an injunction against persons unknown who “enter/occupy land for residential purposes” and persons unknown who “enter/occupy land for the purpose of fly-tipping or discarding substantial amounts of waste” will now be considered at a major hearing on 27th and 28th January 2021, which will also look at other existing local authority injunctions, and consider submissions from the Attorney General and other interested parties.
On 16th October Nicklin J made an order effectively joining all 37 other local authorities who have wide injunctions in place to the Enfield action. The local authorities are ordered to complete a questionnaire and to make any further applications in their cases (e.g. to vary or to withdraw their injunction) directly to Nicklin J. A Case Management Hearing is to take place on 17th December 2020.
“This case will in effect be a test case with implications for all local authorities,” said Ilinca Diaconescu. “For Gypsies and Travellers, the case is as important as the Bromley case, as it has the potential to put an end to discriminatory wide injunctions against the community.”
The full judgment from 2nd October can be found here.
The order of 16th October can be found here.