In the decision of INEOS Upstream Ltd and others v Persons Unknown and others  EWHC 2945 (Ch) the Court granted a quia timet injunction in relation to anticipated unlawful conduct by protestors.
A quia timet injunction is one that restrains wrongful acts which are threatened or imminent but have not yet commenced.
The injunction was sought by a shale gas exploration company (and others) against “persons unknown” (and two named defendants) in relation to anticipated unlawful conduct during expected protests regarding proposed fracking activities on eight sites across England. The judge found that there was an imminent and real risk that, in the absence of injunctions, the defendants would interfere with the legal rights of the claimants.
The causes of action on which the claimants relied in relation to the anticipated unlawful acts were: trespass to private land, actionable interference with private rights of way, public nuisance, harassment contrary to the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, and conspiracy to injure by unlawful means.
The court declined to grant injunctions restraining harassment on the basis that the proposed restraint was too uncertain. However, the claimants were granted permission to apply in the future for an injunction against harassment expressed in clear and precise terms if the claimants could demonstrate the need for such an additional order.
This case is a useful reminder of the Court’s jurisdiction to grant quia timet injunctions in appropriate cases when there is sufficient evidence of an imminent and real threat to interfere with a claimant’s legal rights.