McGee v Lewis

Reference: [2023] EWHC 1813 (KB)

Court: High Court of Justice, King’s Bench Division

Judge: Collins Rice J

Date of judgment: 17 Jul 2023

Summary: Libel – Harassment – Privacy – Judgment in Default – Injunctive relief

Download: Download this judgment

Appearances: Kate Wilson (Claimant) 

Instructing Solicitors: Russells Solicitors (Claimant)


The Claimant is a music industry executive. The Defendant is a songwriter and singer. The Claimant’s record labels had released some singles by the Defendant’s band. The parties had also had an intimate relationship.

After the breakdown of their professional and personal relationships, the Defendant published on social media “with escalating volume and intensity” allegations of misconduct by the Claimant. He denied that there was any truth in her allegations. The Claimant commenced proceedings for (i) harassment, (ii) libel and (iii) misuse of private information.

The Defendant did not respond to the claim, so the Claimant applied for judgment in default and sought injunctive relief at the same hearing.


  1. Whether the Court should proceed in the absence of the Defendant.
  2. Whether judgment in default should be granted.
  3. Whether mandatory injunctive relief, requiring social media posts to be removed, should be granted.
  4. What was the appropriate scope of the prohibitory injunction in a harassment by speech claim.


  1. It was appropriate to proceed in the Defendant’s absence, applying the approach set out in Pirtek (UK) Ltd v Jackson [2017] EWHC 2834 (QB). The Judge accepted the evidence that the Defendant had been served with proceedings and the application papers and that she knew of the hearing. It appeared to the Court that the Defendant had chosen not to engage.
  2. Judgment was granted on all three causes of action pleaded. The Judge considered that default judgment should only be granted after a “searching look at the pleaded claim”. The Particulars of Claim properly advanced all torts.
  3. A prohibitory injunction was granted in terms which forbid the Defendant from publishing the three defamatory allegations complained of, the information which was private (namely text messages), and further material which were the more serious allegations relied upon in the pleaded campaign of harassment.
  4. The injunction expressly required the Defendant to remove 124 social media posts from Instagram and Twitter, save that the Defendant was given liberty to apply, within 28 days of service, to file and serve reasons why she should not delete any of those 124 social media posts on the ground that they would not be caught by the scope of the prohibitory injunction.


This decision illustrates that, while the Court is generally cautious about granting injunctive relief in harassment by speech claims and/or in mandatory terms, the Court may be willing to grant an injunction requiring the removal of specific publications if it is persuaded that this is appropriate to give effect to a prohibition on the Defendant ‘continuing to publish’ material. Further, the liberty to apply provision, under which the Defendant was granted permission to file objections to the scope of the order for removal, offers a practical route by which the Court gives effect to the rights and interests of the parties in harassment by speech cases.