Full case report
Neocleous v Jones, Edwin Coe LLP & ors v Jones
Case Reference  EWHC 3459 (QB)
Judge Eady J
Date of Judgment 21 Dec 2011
Harassment - Protection from Harassment Act 1997 - injunction - law firm members and employees - representative action - CPR 19.6
Two sets of related proceedings were before the court. The first was a claim under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 by N, a solicitor, following various Internet postings made by the Defendant. An interim injunction had already been granted to N, but the Defendant cross applied for a civil restraint order and an injunction against N's law firm, and for N's claim to be struck out. The second set of proceedings were fresh claims brought on behalf of N's firm and, in a representative action, its members (partners) and employees. The claims were again in harassment, arising from the Defendant's Internet postings and his meta-tagging of the firm, its clients, and many of its members and employees.
1) Whether the Defendant’s cross-applications should be granted in the first set of proceedings.
2) Whether the injunctions sought on the Claimants' behalf should be granted in the second set of proceedings.
(1) The Defendant’s cross applications were dismissed. There was no evidence of misconduct to justify the granting of an injunction or the making of a civil restraint order against N or his firm. Similarly, there were no grounds on which N's claim could be struck out.
(2) Injunctions were granted on the Claimants' applications. The Defendant’s multiple threats and communications undoubtedly fulfilled the requirement for a course of conduct under the Act, and some of the Defendant’s threats made clear that the intention was to cause maximum anxiety, inconvenience and commercial damage to the Claimants and their clients. The requirements set out in Cream Holdings v Banerjee  1 AC 253 for the grant of injunctive relief, in a case which might engage the Defendant's right to freedom of expression, were satisfied. This was not a case where the libel rule against prior restraint was applicable, since the proceedings were not concerned so much with the protection of reputation, but rather with the need to protect various persons or classes of persons from harassment.
(1) This short decision provides a useful example of the extension of protection under the Act where the harassment is by way of publication, as opposed to being a case of more conventional stalking, which is more often associated with the legislation.
(2) The court was ready to approve the bringing of a representative action on behalf of the members and employees of the law firm, adopting essentially the same course as taken in Law Society v Kordowski  EWHC 3185 (QB). Similarly, the court invoked section 1(1A) of the Act when it came to protecting the interests of the members and employees of the law firm and their clients.
(3) Bonnard v Perryman  2 Ch 269 did not operate as a bar to the grant of injunctive relief here. The present proceedings were concerned with protection from harassment, as opposed to the protection of reputation, with the court noting that the use to which the Defendant had put his Article 10 right was as a weapon to cause maximum damage and inconvenience.
Edwin Coe LLP