Oxford University & Ors v Broughton & Ors
Reference:  EWHC 75 (QB)
Court: Queen's Bench Division
Judge: Treacy J
Date of judgment: 25 Jan 2008
Summary: Harassment - Injunction - Protection from Harassment Act 1997 - Freedom of expression - Freedom of assembly
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Instructing Solicitors: Simmons for the Claimant; Hickman & Rose for the Defendants
The Claimants (“C”) applied (amongst other matters) to vary existing injunctions against the Defendants (Ds). Firstly by extending the Exclusion Zone to include a new entrance, as the Research Laboratory being built would be completed shortly and C claimed those using it would be subjected to harassment. Whereas the current workers were protected by hoardings and had also chosen to protect themselves by wearing balaclavas, future workers would not have the benefit of the hoardings and would be unlikely to wear balaclavas. C said that public statements made by the Ds showed that the campaign was going to intensify after the building opened. Secondly, C applied for the creation of an Exclusion Zone when graduation ceremonies were taking place as those attending would be subjected to harassment by the Ds and/or there was a conspiracy to injure by the Ds. The Ds claimed that neither application was made out on the evidence and there was no justification for the orders sought.
(1) Were there grounds to extend the existing Exclusion Zone?
(2) Were there grounds to create a new Exclusion Zone at times when graduation ceremonies were taking place?
(1) The completion of the building works were highly likely to lead to a revitalisation of the campaign waged against the laboratory. The Court was satisfied that unless protected there was a high probabliity that intimidatory conduct would taken place which would result in the causing of harassment and fear in the minds of those using the entrance. There was no basis for distinguishing between the different Ds as they had the joint aim of shutting down the university.
(2) A new Exclusion Zone at times when the graduation ceremonies were taking place would not be ordered as the evidence did not show that the shouting and chanting taking place was threatening or menacing, but merely irritating and distastful. There was no evidence of loss or damage suffered by C as a result of D’s conduct and therefore the claim of
conspiracy to injure was not made out.
The fact that the Court extended one Exclusion Zone while at the same time refusing to order another one underlines the importance of ensuring that all the evidence before the Court is sufficient to meet the legal tests – the fact that someone’s activities are “upsetting” and “ruin your day” will not fulfil the criteria laid out in the Protection from Harssment Act 1997.