H v H: HM Attorney-General v H (2001)


In dealing with a father who had made his case into a public cause celebre, the court gave guidance on the drafting, granting and limitations of injunctions in personam and contra mundum.


Cross applications made in family proceedings. H was the father of three children who lived with their mother ('M') following the parents' separation. The children had originally wanted contact with their father, which had not been opposed by M, but as a result of H's stalking and harassment of her and the children the relationship broke down and the children no longer wanted any contact with him. H had engaged in fanatic and combative behaviour in breach of injunctions, bombarding M and the court with applications and harassing expert witnesses and the staff of the Official Solicitor ('OS'). He staged rooftop demonstrations, bomb hoaxes and protests outside courts and at the private homes of judges. He had also involved the media and various campaign groups. H had been convicted on previous occasions in respect of existing injunctions in personam and contra mundum. H sought weekly direct contact with the children, the removal of the OS from the case and the discharge of all injunctions. M sought a specific issues order to regulate H's dealings with the children's schools. The local council sought injunctions restraining H from harassing, pestering or threatening its employees. The Attorney-General sought injunctions restraining H from communicating with the OS and harassing his staff.


(1) H was sentenced to ten months' imprisonment for breaches of existing injunctions. (2) H was not to have any direct contact or telephone contact with the children until further order. Indirect contact was restricted and subject to the approval of social services. H would receive school reports and notice of serious accident or injury but no advance information about school outings and activities. (3) H was restrained from having or seeking any contact or communication with the children, M or staff at the city council's social services department. (4) As regards the injunction contra mundum, it had to be established convincingly by proper evidence that an injunction was necessary to protect a child from clear and identifiable harm. It also had to be proportionate. Jurisdiction was only exercisable contra mundum if the proposed publication was directly about a child whose care and upbringing were already being supervised by the court and could have threatened the effective working of the court's jurisdiction or the ability of carers to carry out their obligations to the court. The inherent jurisdiction would only be invoked if and to the extent that statutory restraints were inadequate. H was entitled to protest on the public highway about what he considered to be failings on the part of individual judges or the judicial system. It was not contempt to engage in reasoned criticism of the judicial system or of the judiciary as individuals or a whole, even if it was expressed in robust, insulting or vulgar language. Article 10 European Convention on Human Rights applied to the shocking and disturbing and permitted a degree of exaggeration or provocation. The limits to what was permissible were to be determined according to Convention principles, particularly proportionality. It was wrong in principle to prevent the media and someone in H's position making use of his name and photograph in connection with a protest of the kind he wished to pursue. The court was wholly unpersuaded that this would inflict upon the children any damage justifying the exercise of the court's protective powers. The balance between the parties' privacy and the public interest could best be achieved by allowing the story to be published whilst preserving the parties anonymity. (6) H was prohibited from issuing any further applications save with the leave of the High Court.

Orders accordingly.