The Supreme Court has ruled that wide injunctions have a negative impact on the ability of Gypsies and Travellers to pursue a nomadic way of life. But it has also rejected an appeal lodged by London Gypsies and Travellers, Friends, Families and Travellers (FFT) and Derbyshire Gypsy Liaison Group (DGLG) in relation to the granting of wide injunctions against “persons unknown”.
The judgment, passed down today, states that injunctions, whether described as interim or final, could as a matter of principle be granted against newcomers. But for different reasons than those given by the Court of Appeal in an earlier stage of the proceedings.
The Supreme Court considered that newcomer injunctions were an equitable remedy that ought to be available to the Court in appropriate cases where other remedies available are inadequate to vindicate or protect the rights in issue.
However, importantly, the Supreme Court also recognised the impact that these injunctions have on the ability of Gypsies and Travellers to live a traditionally nomadic way of life, highlighting the continuing lack of site provision. It noted the Court of Appeal’s decision in the earlier Bromley case and the guidance that was given to local authorities seeking wide injunctions in that case.
The Supreme Court added guidance noting: “We have considerable doubt as to whether it could ever be justifiable to grant a Gypsy or Traveller injunction which is directed to persons unknown, including newcomers, and extends over the whole borough or for significantly more than a year.”
“It is to be remembered that this is an exceptional remedy, and it must be a proportionate response to the unlawful activity to which it is directed. Further we consider that an injunction which extends borough-wide is likely to leave the Gypsy and Traveller communities with little or no room for manoeuvre…”
After the ruling was handed down, Debby Kennett, Chief Executive of London Gypsies and Travellers, said she was pleased that the Supreme Court had outlined strict limits to the use of “persons unknown” injunctions, and recognised the challenges facing Gypsies and Travellers.
“The Supreme Court has recognised that the lack of sites and stopping places for Gypsies and Travellers is the fundamental problem and that use of wide injunctions offers no real solutions,” she said. “There is a clear message to local authorities to seek dialogue, understand the needs of nomadic communities and have a constructive approach to finding proportionate solutions.”
“We strongly support this and hope that it will urge councils to change their approach from evictions and criminalisation to providing the sites and stopping places that are urgently needed.”
FFT, LGT and DGLG were represented by Chris Johnson of Community Law Partnership, Marc Willers KC, Tessa Buchanan and Owen Greenhall of Garden Court Chambers, and Richard Drabble KC of Landmark Chambers. Liberty and Friends of the Earth acted as Interveners in the case.
Further reaction can be found on the FFT website.