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Case law: Court clarifies when landowners aiming to stop trespassers can apply for final injunctions against 'persons unknown'

Landowners applying for a final injunction to stop people trespassing on their land should ensure the wording of the order requested is tailored to the particular risks, it is no wider than necessary and is proportionate to the circumstances - or risk it being refused, a High Court ruling makes clear.

December 2018

This update was published in Legal Alert - December 2018

Legal Alert is a monthly checklist from Atom Content Marketing highlighting new and pending laws, regulations, codes of practice and rulings that could have an impact on your business.

A landowner applied for a final injunction to stop 'persons unknown' from entering one of its sites. It had secured the site but there was a risk of injury to anyone who managed to get access to it. It raised the issue of trespassing at similar sites it owned, where there had been illegal raves, significant fly-tipping and caravans coming onto the site, as evidence there was a risk of trespassing on this site.

The High Court applied a two-stage test, asking whether:

  1. There was a strong probability that someone would breach the landowner's rights unless it granted the injunction
  2. The resulting harm would be so grave that compensation would not be an adequate remedy

First, it found there was a strong probability of a breach in relation to illegal raves and caravans, but not in relation to fly-tipping.

Secondly, it found there were significant risks to the health and safety of any trespasser (as well as to workers and contractors); and that while there was a legal mechanism for the landowner to recover the costs of removing trespassers, it was unlikely to be able to do so in practice. Compensation was therefore an inadequate remedy.

The landowner's wording in the proposed injunction was too wide. It restricted access to the site by anyone without its written permission, which was not practicable.

The Court therefore refused to grant a final injunction but did grant an interim injunction, limited to the two categories of most likely trespassers.

Operative date

  • Now


  • Landowners applying for an injunction purporting to stop 'persons unknown' from trespassing on a site should ensure the wording of the requested order is tailored to the particular risks, no wider than necessary and is proportionate to the circumstances - or risk it being refused

Case ref: Vastint Leeds BV v Persons Unknown Entering or Remaining Without the Consent of the Claimant on Land and Buildings Comprising Part of a Development Site Known as the Former Tetley Brewery Site, Leeds [2018] EWHC 2456

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