The Human Rights Act 1998 contains provisions which will apply where a court is considering whether to grant any relief which might affect a person's right to freedom of expression. These provide that a court should not grant an injunction to restrain a publication before trial unless the court is satisfied that the applicant is likely to establish at trial that the publication should not be allowed.
Mr Jagwani, a school teacher, issued proceedings for defamation and harassment under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 (PHA) against Ms Alles. In July 2019, Ms Alles published an article online about Mr Jagwani's marriage and divorce from his ex-wife (Ms Parwani) entitled 'Indian bride, used, abused and discarded by East London school teacher'. Ms Alles had the article republished on various other websites including Twitter, where she tagged the post to the Twitter account of the school where Mr Jagwani worked. Ms Alles also contacted Mr Jagwani by phone and text.
Mr Jagwani strongly denies the allegations made against him.
Mr Jagwani applied for an interim injunction to restrain Ms Alles from making further contact with him and publishing any further material. The judge refused to grant an interim injunction. The judge accepted that Mr Jagwani had been distressed by the article, its re-publication and adverse social media posts, and that it had taken a toll on his health. However, he was not satisfied that Ms Alles' conduct reached the requisite level of seriousness which would justify an injunction.
In the judge's view, Ms Alles' conduct did not even "come close to that line". Ms Alles had contacted Mr Jagwani only once directly by telephone and had sent him one text message - his case therefore relied on the harassment suffered by publication of what Mr Jagwani claimed were false and defamatory statements in the article and social media. The Judge considered that Mr Jagwani's strenuous denial of the allegations was not sufficient to justify restricting Ms Alles's right of freedom of expression.
There was no clear evidence that Ms Parwani's allegations, believed and reported by Ms Alles, were false. The judge said that the evidence that had so far been made available should be properly tested at trial. The court was not satisfied that Mr Jagwani was likely to establish at trial that continued publication of the article or related comments by Ms Alles should not be allowed. Mr Jagwani might succeed if the matter proceeded to trial, but the evidence fell short of showing that he was likely to succeed. On that basis, the interim injunction was refused.
The case illustrates the difficulties of this legislation and the high threshold required to succeed in obtaining an interim injunction. The claim for interim relief fell short as Mr Jagwani failed to establish that the publication amounted to a level of harassment which justified restricting Ms Alles' right to freedom of expression.