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In Valero Energy Ltd and others v Persons Unknown [2024] the High Court granted a final injunction against persons unknown to remain in place for five years subject to annual reviews.

The Claimants (Valero) were three petrochemical companies forming part of the Valero Group. The Defendants were described in the judgment as persons unknown associated with environmental protest organisations, such as Extinction Rebellion, who interfere with the operations of and roads to oil terminals and refineries across the country owned by Valero, together with various named individuals who have been or were suspected to become involved in disruptive behaviour at or on the access roads leading to the Valero sites.

After ongoing public threats and protests from the Defendants and based on police intelligence, Valero had previously obtained interim injunctions against the Defendants which had been renewed on several occasions. Valero then applied for summary judgment and a final quia timet or precautionary injunction.

The Court reviewed the evidence, the requirements for summary judgment and the  guidelines recently laid down by the Supreme Court in Wolverhampton City Council and Others v London Gypsies and Travellers and others [2023] (please see our previous article on this case here). The Court commented that these rules or guidelines must be met because a final injunction against persons unknown is a "nuclear option" in civil law akin to a temporary piece of legislation affecting all citizens of England and Wales for the future so must be used "only with safeguards in place".

The Court considered the following substantive requirements:

  1. The cause of action
  2. Full and frank disclosure by the Claimant
  3. Sufficient evidence on the summary judgment application to prove the claim
  4. No realistic defence
  5. A "compelling justification" for the injunction to protect Valero's civil rights
  6. Damages would not be an adequate remedy

    And the following procedural requirements:

  7. Persons unknown must be identified by reference to conduct and geographical boundaries;
  8. The prohibitions must be set out in clear words, match the claim and be defined according to geographical boundaries, if possible
  9. The duration of the final injunction should be limited to what is reasonably necessary to protect the claimant from future feared activity
  10. The court papers must be served by alternative means and the claimants must take all practical steps to bring them to the defendants' attention
  11. The persons unknown must be given the right to apply to set aside or vary the order
  12. Provision must be made for reviewing the injunction in the future so that a final injunction against persons unknown is never totally final.

The Court concluded that the requirements were met and granted the five-year injunction sought by Valero, subject to annual reviews.

This is the latest case in the developing area of so called "newcomer" injunctions and shows that the courts are prepared to grant injunctions against persons unknown to restrain future behaviour, subject to the strict requirements summarised above being satisfied.