Monsanto Plc v Tilly and Others: CA 30 Nov 1999

A group carried out direct action in protesting against GM crops by pulling up the plants. The group’s media liaison officer, while not actually pulling up plants himself, ‘reconnoitred the site the day before. He met the press at a prearranged rendezvous and led them to the site for the purpose of photographing and reporting the uprooting activities. He was present while the others uprooted the plants and he explained the purpose and significance of their acts to the media’
Held: He had no arguable defence to a claim that he was a joint tortfeasor.
The defence of justification by necessity to trespass to land and to the damage to crops on that land is very closely circumscribed. It was available only in circumstances of imminent and serious danger to life or property. Here damage to the genetically modified crops, part of a field trial by the plaintiffs, was for the purpose of obtaining publicity for the defendants genuinely and sincerely held views, but not in circumstances which might make the defence available.
Stuart Smith LJ said: ‘Those views were genuinely and sincerely held and there was nothing whatever unlawful in trying to persuade others and particularly the Government of the rightness of their views provided they did not employ unlawful means to do so, and provided they did not incite others to use unlawful means, such that they were liable in tort to the Claimant . . In a democratic society, the object of change in Government policy had to be effected by lawful and not unlawful means. Those who suffered infringement of their lawful rights were entitled to the protection of the law. If others deliberately infringed those rights in order to attract publicity to their cause, however sincerely they believed in its correctness, they had to bear the consequences of their law breaking. That was fundamental to the rule of law in a civilised and democratic society’

Stuart Smith, Pill, Mummery LJJ
Times 30-Nov-1999, [2000] ENV LR 313, [1999] EWCA Civ 3044, [1999] EG 143
England and Wales
CitedSouthwark London Borough Council v Williams CA 1971
No Defence of Homelessness to Squatters
The defendants, in dire need of housing accommodation entered empty houses owned by the plaintiff local authority as squatters. The court considered the defence of necessity.
Held: The proper use of abandoned council properties is best . .

Cited by:
CitedUniversity of Oxford and others v Broughton and others QBD 10-Nov-2004
The claimants sought injunctions to protect themselves against the activities of animal rights protesters, including an order preventing them coming with a wide area around the village.
Held: The orders made were justified with the additional . .
CitedWhite v Withers Llp and Dearle CA 27-Oct-2009
The claimant was involved in matrimonial ancillary relief proceedings. His wife was advised by the defendants, her solicitors, to remove his private papers. The claimant now sought permission to appeal against a strike out of his claim against the . .
CitedTchenguiz and Others v Imerman CA 29-Jul-2010
Anticipating a refusal by H to disclose assets in ancillary relief proceedings, W’s brothers wrongfully accessed H’s computers to gather information. The court was asked whether the rule in Hildebrand remained correct. W appealed against an order . .
CitedFish and Fish Ltd v Sea Shepherd UK and Another AdCt 25-Jun-2012
The claimant company was engaged in tuna fish culture off shore to Malta. The defendant ship was owned by a charity which campaigned against breaches of animal preservation conventions. Fish were being transporting live blue fin tuna in towed . .
CitedSea Shepherd UK v Fish and Fish Ltd SC 4-Mar-2015
Accessory Liability in Tort
The court considered the concept of accessory liability in tort. Activists had caused damage to vessels of the respondent which was transporting live tuna in cages, and had caused considerable damage. The appellant company owned the ship from which . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Torts – Other, Land

Leading Case

Updated: 31 October 2021; Ref: scu.83804