Imutran Ltd v Uncaged Campaigns Ltd
Reference:  EWHC 31 (Ch);  2 All ER 385;  EMLR 563;  FSR 20
Court: Chancery Division
Judge: Morritt V-C
Date of judgment: 11 Jan 2001
Summary: Confidential information - copyright - animals - medical research - experiments - interim injunctive relief - s12 Human Rights Act - standard of proof for interim injunction - public interest - democratic society making arrangements to secure public interest
Instructing Solicitors: Eversheds
An animal rights organisation, UCL, obtained a large volume of confidential information from the files of a research company carrying out investigations into the possibility of transplanting animal organs to humans. UCL prepared a report on this material and put both the report and most of the material on a website. The company secured the closing down of the site, and applied for an interim injunction to prohibit further disclosure, relying on rights of confidence and copyright. UCL contended that it had a sound defence of public interest to each of those claims, asserting there was evidence that the company was causing unnecessary suffering in pursuit of research which had no real prospect of success.
(1) What standard of proof did the claimant need to meet in order to satisfy the requirement of s12 HRA, that an injunction should only be granted if the claimant was “likely” to succeed at trial?
(2) Applying that standard, should the injunction be granted, having regard to UCL’s defence of public interest?
(1) The standard required to satisfy s12 HRA was not the balance of probabilities. It was not necessary to determine precisely what the standard was, although in practice it was probably not very different from the American Cyanamid standard.
(2) The information was confidential, and the documents protected by copyright. The balance of convenience favoured the grant of an injunction, despite the public interest defence. As regards copyright, the public interest defence was narrow (Ashdown v Telegraph applied). As regards confidence it was outweighed by the claimant’s interest in protecting confidence pending trial, particularly when regard was had to the fact that there was a statutory scheme for licensing and regulating animal experimentation, and an inspectorate to enforce the scheme.
This was the first case after the implementation of the Human Rights Act in which the court had to decide the effect of the requirement in section 12(3) that an interim injunction should only be granted if it was “likely” that the claimant would succeed at trial. The second point of interest is the court’s conclusion that if, in a democratic society, Parliament has established a system and an inspectorate to cater for possible abuses in a particular area (in this case, animal experimentation) that militates against a right to disclose to the general public, allegedly in the public interest, confidential information supposedly revealing wrongdoing by those conducting the experiments. Views may differ on whether this approach is unduly deferential, but it is plainly closely tied to the criteria under Article 10(2) ECHR, by which an interference with freedom of expression is justified if it is necessary in a democratic society.