Supreme Court Upholds Grant of Newcomer Injunctions in Landmark Gypsy and Traveller Case

Citation: [2023] UKSC 47
Judgment on

Introduction

In the landmark case involving Wolverhampton City Council and others v London Gypsies and Travellers and others, the United Kingdom Supreme Court delved into the complex and nuanced issues surrounding the grant of injunctions against ‘newcomers’ — individuals who at the time of an injunction’s grant are neither identifiable as defendants nor have committed or threatened to commit the act prohibited by the injunction. This analysis explores the key topics and legal principles applied in this case, linking them to the specifics of the case law summary provided.

Key Facts

The essence of this case relates to injunctions sought by local authorities to prevent unauthorized encampments by Gypsies and Travellers on public land. The appellants, representing the interests of Gypsies and Travellers, were appealing against a Court of Appeal decision challenging the legality of such injunctions. The golden thread in this dispute is whether it is legally sound to issue injunctions that bind individuals who are not parties to the claim when the injunction is granted — termed as ‘newcomers.‘

The Supreme Court’s analysis focused on several legal principles of equity — illustrating its dynamic nature and the court’s jurisdictional obligation to maintain the rule of law. Equity principles dictate that remedies should be just and convenient, where other legal remedies are deemed inadequate. The decision hinged on principles such as the requirement of a compelling need for protection of rights, ensuring procedural fairness, and placing temporal and geographical limits on injunctions to ensure proportional safeguarding of rights.

A critical aspect of the legal analysis concerns the potential anomaly within the notion of “newcomers” becoming defendants through the act of breaching an injunction. The court rejected this so-called ‘Gammell solution,’ stressing the primacy of those who obey the law in shaping the contours of legal assessments. Instead, the court endorsed approaching newcomer injunctions as analogous to contra mundum orders (binds all persons), inherently made without notice, yet subject to safeguards that keep procedural fairness intact.

The need for full disclosure from the local authorities, when making such applications, was underscored by the court. This duty obliges the applicants to present all that might be relevant to the case, including information which a newcomer might wish to contest. Moreover, the court outlined that the terms of such injunctions should be unambiguous and comprehensible to a layman, avoiding reliance on legal jargon.

The court also dealt with the debates around the constitutionality of such injunctions, rejecting the notion that courts overstep their constitutional role by placing injunctions that impose a public law regime.

Outcomes

The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, affirming the Court of Appeal’s judgment yet differing significantly in its reasoning. It was established that newcomer injunctions can be justly granted, provided they adhere to the protective measures stipulated throughout the decision, safeguarding the rights of those affected.

Conclusion

In a significant departure from previous approaches, the UK Supreme Court has outlined a clear and innovative path for the grant of newcomer injunctions. By drawing on traditional equitable principles in harmony with modern legal requirements, the court affirmed its commitment to procedural fairness and adaptability — ensuring that equity remains a living body of law while shielding the rights and interests of the most vulnerable in society. This case paves the way for local authorities to responsibly and fairly seek legal redress against unauthorized encampments while upholding the fundamental rights of the Gypsy and Traveller communities.

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