Vastint Leeds Bv v Persons Unknown: ChD 24 Sep 2018

The claimant company sought a final injunction to prevent others occupying its land in Leeds. It was a quia timet injunction anticipating future acts of occupation by caravans, fly-tipping and use of the land for illegal raves.
Held: The injunction was granted.
Marcus Smith J extracted the following propositions:
(1) A distinction is drawn between final mandatory and final prohibitory quia timet injunctions. Because the former oblige the defendant to do something, whilst the latter merely oblige the defendant not to interfere with the claimant’s rights, it is harder to persuade a court to grant a mandatory than a prohibitory injunction. That said, the approach to the granting of a quia timet injunction, whether mandatory or prohibitory, is essentially the same.
(2) Quia timet injunctions are granted where the breach of a claimant’s rights is threatened, but where (for some reason) the claimant’s cause of action is not complete. This may be for a number of reasons. The threatened wrong may, as here, be entirely anticipatory. On the other hand, as in Hooper v. Rogers, the cause of action may be substantially complete. In Hooper v. Rogers, an act constituting nuisance or an unlawful interference with the claimant’s land had been committed, but damage not yet sustained by the claimant but was only in prospect for the future.
(3) When considering whether to grant a quia timet injunction, the court follows a two-stage test:
(a) First, is there a strong probability that, unless restrained by injunction, the defendant will act in breach of the claimant’s rights?
(b) Secondly, if the defendant did an act in contravention of the claimant’s rights, would the harm resulting be so grave and irreparable that, notwithstanding the grant of an immediate interlocutory injunction (at the time of actual infringement of the claimant’s rights) to restrain further occurrence of the acts complained of, a remedy of damages would be inadequate?
(4) There will be multiple factors relevant to an assessment of each of these two stages, and there is some overlap between what is material to each. Beginning with the first stage – the strong possibility that there will be an infringement of the claimant’s rights – and without seeking to be comprehensive, the following factors are relevant:
(a) If the anticipated infringement of the claimant’s rights is entirely anticipatory – as here – it will be relevant to ask what other steps the claimant might take to ensure that the infringement does not occur. Here, for example, Vastint has taken considerable steps to prevent trespass; and yet, still, the threat exists.
(b) The attitude of the defendant or anticipated defendant in the case of an anticipated infringement is significant. As Spry notes,[15] ‘[o]ne of the most important indications of the defendant’s intentions is ordinarily found in his own statements and actions’.
(c) Of course, where acts that may lead to an infringement have already been committed, it may be that the defendant’s intentions are less significant than the natural and probable consequences of his or her act.
(d) The time-frame between the application for relief and the threatened infringement may be relevant. The courts often use the language of imminence, meaning that the remedy sought must not be premature.[16]
(5) Turning to the second stage, it is necessary to ask the counterfactual question: assuming no quia timet injunction, but an infringement of the claimant’s rights, how effective will a more-or-less immediate interim injunction plus damages in due course be as a remedy for that infringement? Essentially, the question is how easily the harm of the infringement can be undone by an ex post rather than an ex ante intervention, but the following other factors are material:
(a) The gravity of the anticipated harm. It seems to me that if the some of the consequences of an infringement are potentially very serious and incapable of ex post remedy, albeit only one of many types of harm capable of occurring, the seriousness of these irremediable harms is a factor that must be borne in mind.
(b) The distinction between mandatory and prohibitory injunctions.’


Marcus Smith J


[2018] EWHC 2456 (Ch, [2019] 4 WLR 2




England and Wales


CitedFletcher v Bealey ChD 27-Jan-1885
The court was asked to grant an injunction quia timet. Pearson J said: ‘it is not correct to say, as a strict proposition of law, that, if the plaintiff has not sustained, or cannot prove that he has sustained, substantial damage, this Court will . .
CitedGraigola Merthyr Co Ltd v Swansea Corporation CA 1928
The plaintiff mine-owner having had a contract that the neighbouring land owner would not refill its reservoir which would result in its workings being flooded, and that contract having expired, now sought an injunction to prevent the reservoir from . .
CitedHooper v Rogers CA 1974
When considering a request for a quia timet injunction, Russell LJ said: ‘In different cases, differing phrases have been used in describing circumstances in which mandatory injunctions and quia timet injunctions will be granted. In truth, it seems . .
CitedLloyd v Symonds, Anderson and Lucas CA 20-Mar-1998
Appeal against injunction in nuisance to stop keeping breeding kennels. The neighbour had begun keeping the kennels, and the neighbour complained to the local Environmental Health office. Abatement notices were served, and the neighbour respondent . .
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 . .
CitedIneos Upstream Ltd and Others v Persons Unknown and Others ChD 23-Nov-2017
The claimant sought an injunction expressed to be against unknown persons.
Held: Morgan J expressed a degree of concern about orders having this effect, but concluded that (particularly in light of the South Cambridgeshire decision) this . .
CitedSouth Cambridgeshire District Council v Gammell CA 2005
The Council had taken out an injunction under section 187B of the 1990 Act to prevent unknown persons placing caravans on certain lands. The defendants acted in breach of those injunctions, and the Council requested their committal for contempt. The . .
CitedLondon Borough of Islington v Elliott and Another CA 1-Feb-2012
The appellant challenged a costs order. It owned property on which grew certain trees. A neighbour complained of the incursion of roots, and began an action. The Council, having removed the trees said that it should not have been ordered to pay the . .
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 . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Land, Litigation Practice

Updated: 27 April 2022; Ref: scu.625509