The plaintiff was an eighteen year old girl who had had a friendship with the defendant, aged 28. The friendship broke down and the plaintiff said she would have no more to do with him, but the defendant did not accept this. There were many complaints against the defendant, including assaults, threats of violence, and pestering the plaintiff at her parents’ home where she lived. As a result of the defendant’s threats and abusive behaviour he spent some time in prison.
Held: Harassing telephone calls can be restrained on the basis that they can constitute a nuisance to the occupier. A court may restrain harassment not just to protect a strict legal right.
Dillon LJ (with whom Rose LJ agreed) described the authorities as establishing that ‘false words or verbal threats calculated to cause, uttered with the knowledge that they are likely to cause, and actually causing physical injury to the person to whom they are uttered are actionable’ and interpreted injury in the sense of ‘recognisable psychiatric illness with or without psychosomatic symptoms’, as distinct from ‘mere emotional distress’.
. . And ‘ . . false words or verbal threats calculated to cause, and uttered with the knowledge that they are likely to cause and actually causing physical injury to the person to whom they are uttered are actionable: see the judgment of Wright J in Wilkinson v Downton  2 QB 57 at 59, [1895-9] All ER Rep 267 at 269 cited by Bankes LJ in Janvier v Sweeney  2 KB 316 at 321-322, [1918-19] All ER Rep 1056 at 1059. There was a wilful false statement, or unfounded threat, which was in law malicious, and which was likely to cause and did in fact cause physical injury, viz illness of the nature of nervous shock.”
Dillon, Rose LJJ, Peter Gibson J
Gazette 21-Apr-1993, Independent 17-Mar-1993,  Fam Law 679,  3 WLR 476,  QB 727,  3 All ER 669,  EWCA Civ 18
England and Wales
Followed – Motherwell v Motherwell 1976
(Appellate Division of the Alberta Supreme Court) The court recognised that not only the legal owner of property could obtain an injunction, on the ground of private nuisance, to restrain persistent harassment by unwanted telephone calls to his . .
Cited – Patel v Patel CA 1988
An exclusion zone order had been removed from an injunction granted to a father-in-law against his son-in-law. May LJ observed that an injunction ‘can only be an appropriate remedy where an actual tortious act has been or is likely to be committed’. . .
Cited – Wainwright and another v Home Office HL 16-Oct-2003
The claimant and her son sought to visit her other son in Leeds Prison. He was suspected of involvement in drugs, and therefore she was subjected to strip searches. There was no statutory support for the search. The son’s penis had been touched . .
Overruled – Hunter and Others v Canary Wharf Ltd HL 25-Apr-1997
The claimant, in a representative action complained that the works involved in the erection of the Canary Wharf tower constituted a nuisance in that the works created substantial clouds of dust and the building blocked her TV signals, so as to limit . .
Cited – Ward v Scotrail Railways Limited SCS 27-Nov-1998
The claimant sought damages from the defender, saying that a co-worker had sexually harrassed her. The behaviour continued after she made a complaint to her employer.
Held: It was conceded that the employee’s conduct was not such as to attract . .
Cited – Rhodes v OPO and Another SC 20-May-2015
The mother sought to prevent a father from publishing a book about her child’s life. It was to contain passages she said may cause psychological harm to the 12 year old son. Mother and son lived in the USA and the family court here had no . .
Cited – OPO v MLA and Another CA 9-Oct-2014
The claimant child sought to prevent publication by his father of an autobiography which, he said, would be likely to cause him psychological harm. The father was well known classical musician who said that he had himself suffered sexual abuse as a . .
These lists may be incomplete.
Updated: 09 April 2021; Ref: scu.82771