The High Court has granted injunctions to US claimants in relation to two closely related applications. The case (Power Places Tours Inc and others v Free Spirit and another) is unusual as one of the injunctions granted was to protect US residents from being harassed online by an individual, notwithstanding that they did not appear to have any special connection to the jurisdiction or to have suffered any detriment within it.
The first application was an application by two individual claimants and their travel company, Power Places Tours Inc., to enforce the terms of a settlement agreement against a defendant to an existing action in defamation and harassment. The settlement agreement had included negative restraints against future publications of a similar nature to those complained of in the proceedings, as well as positive obligations to take down existing publications on the internet. The evidence presented to the court indicated that the defendant had failed to comply with these contractual terms and that he continued to post new material of a similar nature as well as make various threats and demands of the individual claimants by email. HHJ Moloney QC was “well satisfied” that he was properly exercising his judicial discretion in granting an injunction to the claimants to enforce the terms of the settlement agreement on the basis of the American Cyanamid principles (taking into account the higher standard required in cases involving freedom of expression specified by section 12 of the Human Rights Act 1998).
The second application was in connection with a newly commenced action by the individual claimants to the original claim to prevent the defendant, in breach of the settlement agreement, from personally harassing them by direct communication. The court stated that, on the facts outlined above, the “basic elements of a good, strong harassment claim [in English law] are present“. However, it recognised that there was a potential issue as to whether English law would be applicable to the case given that the claimants lived in the USA and suffered harm in the USA and that it was not clear whether the defendant sent the email messages from within the jurisdiction. The court took a practical approach to this issue and decided that, on the basis that the defendant appeared to be a resident within the jurisdiction, and had submitted to the jurisdiction of this country in the first action, it would be more likely than not that the court would apply English law to the case. It accordingly considered the injunction sought to be justified and granted it.