Super-Injunctions and Life in the Non-Celebrity World


Everywhere you turn this week, people are talking about Super-Injunctions. Given that the debate is about the right to privacy versus the right to freedom of speech, it is no wonder that the media are all over this issue. For those of us living outside of the celebrity world, the publishing of information about our private lives by the media is not likely to rank very highly on our list of concerns. But the topic also highlights the extent to which injunctions can be used as a powerful tool by those who see their rights as being infringed.

In this article we discuss the various types of injunctions that us non-celebrities may at some point be required to use and the important function they can serve in protecting ourselves, our property and our rights.

Injunctions

For those of you who are unfamiliar with injunctions, an injunction is an order of the court requiring a person to do something or to refrain from doing something. Injunctions are therefore called, respectively, either “mandatory” or “prohibitory” injunctions.

Injunctions are usually sought in circumstances where a person’s rights are being infringed and where an award of money for the breach of that right would not adequately remedy the problem complained of. For example, if your neighbour is planning to build an extension to their house, which would block light from reaching your house, then an order for them to pay you a sum of money will be of little consolation to you. What you want is to prevent the extension from being built in the first place. Similarly, if your ex-partner is constantly calling you, threatening you or stalking you, then your aim would be to stop that behaviour, rather than to get money out of your ex-partner.

If an individual acts in breach of an injunction, they will be in contempt of court and are liable to face criminal sanctions and/or a civil penalty.

Super-injunctions

A “super-injunction” is an injunction that goes one step further – it prevents anyone from even disclosing the fact that an injunction has been granted, as well as any details of it.

Thus, if, for example, a celebrity is discovered to have been involved in an extra-marital affair and is granted a super-injunction by the court, the press are not only prevented from discussing the affair but they are also not allowed to disclose the fact that that particular celebrity has an injunction in place.

In most cases, a super-injunction will not be needed as it will be of no consequence whether an injunction is public knowledge or not. Indeed in many cases those seeking an injunction will want others to know about it to ensure that whatever conduct it is that they are complaining about it ceases!

Examples of circumstances in which injunctions may be used

The following list contains examples of situations in which injunctions are commonly sought:

To stop a nuisance from continuing, such as situations involving noise, air pollution or other environmental pollution

To prevent a person or persons from trespassing on private property

To prevent harassment, stalking and domestic or other violence

To require an ex-partner to leave the marital home in circumstances where violence has occurred or it is otherwise necessary to protect the spouse and/or the children

To restrain the breach of property rights such as the obstruction of a right of way or light, overhanging trees, encroaching roots, excavations on land causing subsidence to the neighbouring land.

To prevent defamatory statements from being made or to require the removal from publication of defamatory statements

To prevent breaches of privacy such as the disclosure of personal information or the publication of private photos (note however that the circumstances in which this can be prevented are limited)

To prevent infringement of Copyright, Trademark and Patent rights

To prevent or stop discriminatory behaviour

To prevent individuals from removing assets from the jurisdiction or from dissipating or otherwise disposing of assets (“Freezing injunctions”)

To maintain the status quo while an uncertain matter awaits a court hearing (“Interim injunctions”)

It is clear, then, that injunctions are a powerful tool available to the courts and to our clients. After all, it isn’t always about the money.

Further Information

If you would like any further information or legal advice in relation to anything discussed in this article please contact Kim Hurley in our Civil Litigation department on (01945) 586612 or email kimhurley@fraserdawbarns.com