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Nuisance for a goose – landowners, take a gander

15 Oct 2021

In the case of Canada Goose UK Retail Ltd v Persons Unknown and another [2019] EWHC 2459 (QB), animal welfare protests had taken place outside the claimants’ London store.  The claimants, a retail clothing company, applied for summary judgment on their claim for an injunction against the protestors.  Summary judgment was refused and an existing interim injunction was retracted – the claimants were on a wild goose chase against Persons Unknown.

The court demonstrated a pragmatic approach to injuncting against Persons Unknown.  In this case, the claimants had issued a claim form that identified the Persons Unknown as ‘… animal rights protestors/activists [who] campaign against the manufacture and/or sale of Animal Products including under the brand “Canada Goose” …‘.  The court found that it was wrong to grant judgment in a civil claim against a person that the court was not satisfied had committed or threatened to commit a civil wrong (eg trespass).  The Persons Unknown could not be regarded as a “homogenous unit” as the operative definitions stretched to capture everyone indiscriminately and it would be wrong to ask an innocent protestor to pay the claimants’ damages/costs.  Additionally:

  • The Persons Unknown had not been served a claim form and were therefore deprived the opportunity to raise a defence;
  • The claimants had not identified certain protestors as they became known, despite claimants needing to take every step to identify defendants before the Court will injunct against Persons Unknown; and
  • It was impossible for the court to know how many people it would be granting an injunction against.

In his decision, Mr Justice Nicklin reiterated the requirements from Ineos for an injunction against Persons Unknown:

  1. There must be a sufficiently real and imminent risk of a tort being committed;
  2. It must be impossible to name the persons who are likely to commit the tort unless restrained;
  3. It must be possible to give notice of the injunction;
  4. The terms of the injunction must correspond to the threatened tort and not be so wide that they prohibit lawful conduct;
  5. The terms of the injunction must be sufficiently clear and precise to enable persons potentially affected to know what they must not do; and
  6. The injunction should have clear geographical and temporal limits.

Landowners should be reminded of these when preparing a claim in trespass against Persons Unknown.

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