Secretary of State for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs v Meier and Others: SC 1 Dec 2009

The claimant sought a possession order to recover land from trespassers. The court considered whether a possession order was available where not all the land was occupied, and it was feared that the occupiers might simply move onto a different part.
Held: The defendants’ appeal was allowed. The court may grant an injunction to prevent further occupations, but an order to give up possession of land not adversely occupied was incorrect: ‘the decision whether or not to grant an order restraining a person from trespassing will turn very much on the precise facts of the case. Nonetheless, where a trespass to the claimant’s property is threatened, and particularly where a trespass is being committed, and has been committed in the past, by the defendant, an injunction to restrain the threatened trespass would, in the absence of good reasons to the contrary, appear to be appropriate.’ and
‘A court may consider it unlikely that it would make an order for sequestration or imprisonment, if an injunction it was being invited to grant were to be breached, but it may nonetheless properly decide to grant the injunction. Thus, the court may take the view that the defendants are more likely not to trespass on the claimant’s land if an injunction is granted, because of their respect for a court order, or because of their fear of the repercussions of breaching such an order. Or the court may think that an order of imprisonment for breach, while unlikely, would nonetheless be a real possibility, or it may think that a suspended order of imprisonment, in the event of breach, may well be a deterrent (although a suspended order should not be made if the court does not anticipate activating the order if the terms of suspension are breached).’

Lord Rodger, Lord Walker, Lady Hale, Lord Neuberger, Lord Collins
[2009] UKSC 11, UKSC 2009/0087, [2009] 1 WLR 2780, [2009] 49 EG 70, [2010] NPC 3, [2009] WLR (D) 347
Bailii, Times, SC, SC Summ, WLRD
England and Wales
CitedManchester Corporation v Connolly CA 1970
The local authority sought to use an injunction to assist in enforcing planning controls. The court had no power to make an interlocutory order for possession. Lord Diplock: ‘The writ of possession was originally a common law writ (although it is . .
CitedIn Re Wykeham Terrace ChD 1971
Squatters had broken into and were in occupation of vacant premises. The plaintiff owner did not know their names. He applied for an order for possession by means of an ex parte originating summons to which there was no defendant. Service was . .
CitedSouth Cambridgeshire District Council v Persons Unknown CA 17-Sep-2004
The council appealed refusal of an order against persons unknown with regard to preventing breaches of planning control at a specific site.
Held: An injunction could properly be granted against persons unknown ‘causing or permitting hardcore . .
CitedDrury v Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs CA 26-Feb-2004
Trespassers occupied part of the land owned by the claimant. They now appealed agaainst an injunction preventing them unlawfully occupying any part of the claimant’s land including areas not previously occupied.
Held: It was critical to . .
CitedBloomsbury Publishing Group Ltd and J K Rowling v News Group Newspapers Ltd and others ChD 23-May-2003
The publishers had gone to great lengths to keep advance copies of a forthcoming book in the Harry Potter series secret. They became aware that some had been stolen from the printers and sought injunctions against the defendants and another unnamed . .
CitedHampshire Waste Services Ltd v Persons Intending to Trespass and/or Trespassing upon Incinerator Sites ChD 2003
The court granted an interlocutory injunction to restrain unknown trespassers from entering land.
The Vice-Chancellor gave the following guidance : (1) First, that the description of the defendant should not involve a legal conclusion, such as . .
CitedRegina v Wandsworth County Court ex parte Wandsworth London Borough Council 1975
Where the court grants a writ of possession requiring the bailiff to put the claimant into possession of land, in principle, the bailiff will remove all those who are on the relevant land, irrespective of whether or not they were parties to the . .
CitedUniversity of Essex v Djemal and others CA 1980
Students occupied the administrative office part of university premises. Following an order for possession of that part, they moved to a part known as Level Six. The university then sought an order for possession of the whole of its premises. Just . .
CitedHemmings v The Stoke Poges Golf Club Limited CA 1920
The defendant landlord had entered the demised property, in which the plaintiff and his wife were living, and removed them and their furniture, using no more force than was reasonably necessary to do so. The landlord had an immediate right to . .
Appeal fromSecretary of State for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs v Meier and others CA 31-Jul-2008
The claimant sought possession of land occupied by the defendant nomadic people. Part of the land only had been occupied by the defendants.
Held: An order for possession could be granted not only of the land occupied, but also the remainder of . .
CitedConnors v The United Kingdom ECHR 27-May-2004
The applicant gypsies had initially been permitted to locate their caravan on a piece of land owned by a local authority, but their right of occupation was brought to an end because the local authority considered that they were committing a . .
CitedHenderson v Squire 1869
The court considered the case where a tenant sublet the premises and the subtenant unlawfully retained possession following the termination of both tenancies.
Held: The tenant, although himself out of possession, had not given – or restored – . .
CitedWrexham County Borough Council v Berry; South Buckinghamshire District Council v Porter and another; Chichester District Council v Searle and others HL 22-May-2003
The appellants challenged the refusal to grant them injunctions to prevent Roma parking caravans on land they had purchased.
Held: Parliament had given to local authorities exclusive jurisdiction on matters of planning policy, but when an . .
CitedManchester Airport Plc v Dutton; Longmire; Stoddard; Maile and Persons Unknown CA 4-Mar-1999
The claimant wished to construct a new runway on its own land, and it was necessary to carry out works, namely, that trees on nearby land should be lopped or felled so that they would not constitute an obstruction to the flight path. The claimant . .
CitedGledhill v Hunter CA 5-Mar-1880
An action ‘to establish title to land,’ not claiming possession, is not an action ‘for the recovery of land,’ so as to require the leave of the Court, under Rules of Court, 1875, Order xvii., rule 2, for its joinder with another cause of action. . .
CitedMcPhail v Persons, Names Unknown CA 1973
The court was asked to make an order against persons unknown in order to recover land. Although an owner of land which was being occupied by squatters was entitled to take the remedy into his own hand, he was encouraged to go to a common law court . .
CitedMinistry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food v Heyman and others 1989
The respondent travellers were in wrongful occupation of an area of woodland owned by the appellant. The appellant sought an order for possession not only to that land but also for an area of woodland in its ownership two or three miles away. The . .
CitedThompson v Elmbridge Borough Council CA 1987
The wife was the secure tenant of the premises, against whom the local authority landlord obtained a possession order on grounds of arrears of rent, not to be enforced on payment of a weekly sum off the arrears in addition to what the order . .

Cited by:
CitedHall and Others v Mayor of London (on Behalf of The Greater London Authority) CA 16-Jul-2010
The appellants sought leave to appeal against an order for possession of Parliament Square on which the claimants had been conducting a demonstration (‘the Democracy Village’).
Held: Leave was refused save for two appellants whose cases were . .
CitedCity of London v Samede and Others QBD 18-Jan-2012
The claimant sought an order for possession of land outside St Paul’s cathedral occupied by the protestor defendants, consisting of ‘a large number of tents, between 150 and 200 at the time of the hearing, many of them used by protestors, either . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Land, Litigation Practice

Updated: 02 November 2021; Ref: scu.381643