On the 1st April 2020 HMCTS published a note on the Civil Court Listing Priorities. This is divided into two sections: – Priority 1 work includes work that must be done and Priority 2 – includes work that ‘could be done’. This is in addition to the guidance already in existence in the High Court Contingency Plan.
It is not surprising that ‘freezers’ (freezing orders), injunctions, and applications where time is of the essence have been included as Priority 1 work in the time of coronavirus.
Since the start of the quarantine period a number of injunctions have been dealt with by the Courts.
It has been reported that Mosscare St. Vincent’s Housing Association obtained a prohibitory injunction against one of its tenants in Manchester for the consistent flouting of government social distancing guidance. A residential tenant of the Housing Association was prevented in future from having visitors to his property that were not from his immediate family.
Here is a reminder of the main types of injunctive relief that may be utilised by individuals and businesses in these uncertain times:
Prohibitory injunction – an injunction sought to prevent someone from carrying out a particular act. In a time of COVID-19 this could be the deliberate flouting of social distancing guidelines or possibly a business continuing to operate when they are not deemed ‘essential’, or an individual who continues to work but they are not classed in government guidance as a ‘key worker’. In a time of financial uncertainty businesses may also wish to ensure that confidential information is adequately safeguarded and not leaked to competitors.
Mandatory injunction – an injunction requiring a party to undertake a specific action. This is similar to a remedy for specific performance and could potentially be used against a party who is in breach of a contract in times of COVID-19. An order may be sought compelling a party to perform its obligations pursuant to the contract. For example, it may be necessary to seek an urgent interim mandatory injunction whilst the existence and extent of any force majeure clause is still determined by the Court.
Freezing injunction – again, in a time of financial uncertainty it may be necessary to obtain a freezing order to prevent a party from disposing of or dissipating its assets either in England and Wales, or globally.