Full case report

(1) Pippa Middleton (2) James Matthews v Persons Unknown

Reference [2016] EWHC 2354 (QB)
Court High Court, QBD

Judge Whipple J

Date of Judgment 28 Sep 2016


Summary

Injunction – persons unknown – misuse of private information – data protection – breach of confidence – copyright


Facts

The First Claimant learned from a journalist from The Sun that an unidentified person had offered to sell the newspaper over 3000 photos obtained from her iCloud account. She subsequently discovered that the photos had also been offered to the Daily Mail. That same evening she obtained an out of hours injunction against persons unknown. The Claimants sought a continuation of the injunction upon the return date.


Issue

Should an interim injunction be granted against ‘persons unknown’


Held

The injunction would be granted. The evidence demonstrated that it was likely the First Claimant’s iCloud account had been hacked into. Such an act would plainly be illegal and, at the very least, a misuse of private information. There was no public interest in the information, and it was not publicly available.

It was appropriate to make an order against persons unknown.  The description  of the Defendants in the order, namely as person(s) “who has or have appropriated, obtained and/or offered or intend to offer for sale and/or publication images contained on the First Claimant’s iCloud account” , was sufficiently certain to enable any person served to know that it applied to him or her.

The court would keep the action under review by ordering that the Claim Form be served within one month. If the Claimants had not been able to identify and serve the Defendant(s) by then, they would need to return to court to seek an extension of time.


Comment

The jurisdiction to grant injunction against ‘persons unknown’ is now well established.  It is particularly useful in cases such as this where an injunction is needed so that third parties, who are considering publishing the illicitly obtained photos, can be bound under the Spycatcher principle.


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Instructing Solicitors

Farrer & Co for the Claimants