A limit to injunctions under the inherent jurisdiction

6 Oct, 2015

London Borough of Redbridge v SNA [2015] EWHC 2140 (Fam)

In his judgment of 21 July 2015, Mr Justice Hayden limits the application of injunctions sought for unspecific children or vulnerable adults under the High Court’s Inherent Jurisdiction. 

The local authority in the case had sought to utilise the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court to protect ‘vulnerable youngsters’ from a male, ‘SNA’. The orders were drafted to restrict SNA’s contact with ‘any female under 18 years of age’. In doing so the local authority relied on Birmingham City Council v Sarfraz Riaz and Others [2014] EWHC 4247 in which, alongside orders prohibiting contact with a specified individual, the subject of the orders had been prevented from approaching any female under the age of 18.

In the course of care proceedings a forensic psychologist had concluded that SNA posed a direct sexual risk to female children left in his care. It had also transpired that such children were sometimes left with him at his work. The psychiatrist recommended SNA be prevented from having any form of unsupervised access to female children.

At paragraph 37 Mr Justice Hayden concludes, having noted at paragraph 33 that the inherent jurisdiction is not unlimited, that to extend the scope of the inherent jurisdiction to children who are neither known nor subject to any proceedings is to go beyond the parameters of its reach.

It was noted that the criminal courts can now, under section 122A of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 (as amended), make a Sexual Risk Order for the protection of a particular child or vulnerable adult or children or vulnerable adults generally.

As an interesting aside, Mr Justice Hayden also discharged undertakings which were given to the court regarding SNA’s contact with females under 18 years old. He concluded in light of the lack of a jurisdictional basis on which to make similar orders, it would be inappropriate to have such undertakings from SNA. In doing so he distinguished the situation he was considering from undertakings in child abduction cases or in matrimonial finance cases where undertakings regularly exceed the scope of specific statutory powers. He noted that in such cases the acceptance of undertakings is appropriate as they fall within ‘the objectives of the applicable legislative framework’.

Conclusion

The granting of an injunction for the protection of unspecified individuals, as was granted in Birmingham City Council v Sarfraz Riaz and Others, was not followed by Mr Justice Hayden. Until such time as the issue is determined by a superior court, the scope for obtaining such generic injunctions may be limited.

However, via liaison with the police, local authorities may consider recourse to the criminal courts under a Sexual Risk Order in cases where such broad restrictions are required.

Kieran Coleman

 

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