The recent case of Vastint Leeds BV v Persons Unknown  EWHC 2456 (Ch) has provided clarity for landowners suffering from repeat trespass on their property, have no idea who the trespassers are and fear further trespass.
The Claimant was the owner of the former Tetley Brewery site in Leeds. There had been a series of incidents of trespass between 2011 and 2018. On the most recent occasion in 2018, the trespassers triggered alarms and held a number of illegal raves in empty buildings on the site. The Claimant spent £25,000 cleaning up the mess.
Given the risk of fly-tipping (well known with such sites) as well as further illegal raves, the Claimant wanted to take steps to take decisive steps to prevent further trespass. Despite having fenced the site, installing alarms and paying for a weekly security patrol, determined trespassers were still gaining access. The Claimant applied for an injunction against unknown future trespassers so that they could call upon High Court Enforcement Officers and, if necessary, the police to quickly remove trespassers should there be a any further trespass.
It is not unusual not to know the identity of trespassers. The CPR provides for 3 scenarios where an unknown persons or persons could become a party in trespass proceedings:
- Where a particular person was identified (e.g. in a photograph) but their name is not known.
- Where a person was part of a fluctuating class or group or persons some of which were known.
- Where the identity of the Defendant is defined by a likely prospective acts of infringement of the order the court is being invited to make
The Tetley Brewery case fell within the final category, the prospective acts including further illegal raves and fly-tipping.
The court gave useful guidance as what is required to obtain such an injunction and applied a two stage test:
- Is there a strong probability that, unless restrained by an injunctions, the Defendant will act on breach of the Claimant's right?
- If the Defendant has acted in breach of the Claimant's rights, whether the harm would be so grave that damages are no an adequate remedy
The test was made and the court granted the injunction taking into account the following;
- The steps taken by the Claimant to secure the land
- The brazen attitude of the trespasser and anticipated future trespassers
- That there had been incidents of trespass of 2011, 2016, 2017, 2018
- The timeframe between the application and the threatened further trespass
- The risk to the lives of the trespassers given the unsafe site
- The cost to the Claimant of removing the trespassers
The case shows that the courts will be very open to granting broad and extensive injunctions binding unknown future trespassers. This is good news for landowners.