High Court Rules in Favor of Claimants in Internet Harassment Case, Rejecting Defendant's Claims

Citation: [2011] EWHC 3459 (QB)
Judgment on


In the case of Neocleous v Jones [2011] EWHC 3459 (QB), the High Court of Justice Queen’s Bench Division delivered a judgment involving complaints of harassment conducted via the internet. The legal dispute entailed applications for injunctive relief, brought by the claimants against the defendant, Mr. Stephen Jones, who himself sought injunctive relief and made counter-allegations. Mr. Justice Eady presided over the cross-applications, ultimately deciding in favor of the claimants. This article delves into the key facts of the case, the legal principles applied, the outcomes of the applications, concluding with a brief summation of the case’s implications within the wider legal framework.

Key Facts

The case consolidated two separate proceedings. The first claim involved harassment actions brought by Neoclis Neocleous against Mr. Jones. The second figured a collective of members and employees from the law firm Edwin Coe LLP as claimants seeking to restrain Mr. Jones from continuing his alleged harassment. Both claims centered on injunctions to curb internet-based harassment by Mr. Jones.

A contentious point emerged from an alleged email purportedly sent by Mr. Neocleous to Mr. Jones, which Mr. Neocleous denied authoring. There was a strong inference that Mr. Jones might have fabricated the email to support his claims. The defendant also alleged that Mr. Neocleous instructed others to harass him, for which the evidence was adjudged insufficient during interlocutory proceedings.

Several legal principles played crucial roles in the adjudication of this case:

1. Harassment Act: The main legal footing for the claimants was the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 and its amendment by the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005, s.125. The statute recognizes harassment involving two or more persons and prohibits such conduct intending to coerce individuals into action or restraint where there is no legal obligation.

2. The “Reasonable Conduct” Defence: Mr. Justice Eady assessed the provision under the Harassment Act that offers a defense for a “course of conduct” that can be objectively deemed reasonable. Accusations of instructional harassment towards Mr. Jones lacked substantial evidence, negating this defense’s applicability.

3. Human Rights Act and Article 10: When considering injunctions affecting publication, there is a need to balance harassment protection against the defendant’s right to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. A stringent test from s.12(3) of the Human Rights Act 1998 is employed to ensure the likelihood of claim success at trial for permanent injunctions. The court also regarded the specific conduct of Mr. Jones, which did not align with the defense of Article 10 rights.

4. Representative Actions: The case involved a representative action under CPR 19.6 due to the various persons seeking protection, aligning it with the precedent set by Law Society v Kordowski [2011] EWHC 3185 (QB).

5. The Test of “Likelihood of Success”: To grant interim relief, the court had to be convinced that the claimants are likely to succeed at trial in obtaining a permanent injunction, referencing the standard set out in Cream Holdings Ltd v Banerjee [2005] 1 AC 253.

6. Defamation Principles in Injunction: The principle from Bonnard v Perryman [1891] 2 Ch 269 and Greene v Associated Newspapers Ltd [2005] QB 972 around injunctions and intention to prove truth in defamation was mentioned, highlighting that the proceedings focused on preventing harassment rather than protecting reputation.


Justice Eady rejected Mr. Jones’ applications due to lack of evidence and for procedural reasons — Edwin Coe LLP was not party to the action against whom relief was sought. In contrast, the claimants provided sufficient evidence of harassment justifying an injunction. The judge granted the injunctions for the claimants, remarking on the insufficiency of Mr. Jones’ claims and the adequacy of claimants’ evidence. This evidence showed the defendant’s intention to use his IT skills for sustained harassment, causing anxiety and damage to the claimants and their clients.


Neocleous v Jones [2011] EWHC 3459 (QB) reflects the court’s effort to balance individual rights under the Human Rights Act with the need for protection against harassment. The judgment emphasized that robust evidence is paramount in applications for injunctive relief, especially when such relief has the potential to curtail freedom of expression. Ultimately, the court favored protecting individuals and entities from proven harassment over unsubstantiated assertions of misconduct.