Reference:  EWHC 853 (QB)
Court: Queen's Bench Division
Judge: Eady J
Date of judgment: 22 Apr 2010
Summary: Ex parte injunctions - Privacy - "Persons unknown" - Service on media defendants
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Instructing Solicitors: Schillings for the Applicant
TUV was the victim of a burglary during which various pieces of equipment were stolen. Among the items stolen was a laptop computer which contained visual images of TUV. TUV sought and obtained an order, on an ex parte basis, restraining persons unknown from dealing with, or parting possession of, the stolen goods. At the hearing of the return date an important point of principle was raised by Mr Justice Eady, namely, the extent to which it is, or may be, appropriate to give prior notification of an application for an injunction to restrict a defendant or defendants (sometimes as yet unidentified) from communicating information alleged to be private or confidential to any media third party upon whom it is intended to serve any order obtained.
In what circumstances it was appropriate for an applicant to give notice to a defendant upon whom it intends to serve an order for an injunction
(1) The need for prior notification should be addressed according to the facts of each case.
(2) The relevant question to be asked is whether it is proportionate to require an applicant for an injunction to undertake the expense, delay and inconvenience of serving all media organisation who may be affected by the injunction.
(3) In assessing the competing rights of an applicant and the media, a sensible balance can be achieved by serving those who the applicant has reason to believe will have an interest in the story. This exercise should not involve speculation or guesswork, but rather be based on solid grounds in the light of available evidence.
(4) An obligation to notify should only arise where the facts indicate that a particular media organisation is believed to have shown some interest in publishing.
This decision addresses a practical point which will be of considerable importance both to the media and for those who act for parties applying for ex parte injunctions. The concluding comments of Mr Justice Eady should provide a useful practical guide as to when applicants who seek interim injunctions should notify the media of their intention:
” … I do not think it right that an applicant’s lawyers should have to give prior notification to each and every media group – simply on the basis that they might be interested in the story, or in the private information sought to be protected, if they hear about it … the law should only impose an obligation to notify those who are already believed to have shown some interest in publishing.”