The Fast and the Furious: Comes to trial

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Joseph Giret QC and Anya Newman on boys, toys and unprecedented High Court injunctions.

On the 1 December 2014, HHJ Owen QC sitting as a High Court judge in Birmingham granted an injunction prohibiting an activity known as Car Cruising across the entire Black Country region.


Dispensing as it did with personal service, it tore up the original template for this type of injunction and, responding to the unique circumstances that the four Black Country Metropolitan and City Borough councils were facing, permitted a more sensitive and workable solution to the real problem presented to the business and local community at large by so called Car Cruising. Joseph Giret QC led Anya Newman from St Ives Chambers, Birmingham.

Car Cruising: an historical perspective

Car Cruising was described and defined thus in 2010, by HHJ Oliver-Jones QC, Birmingham City Council v Persons Unknown:

“...‘Car Cruises’ are...in essence, events [which] attract the drivers of cars, including what are colloquially known as ‘Boy Racers’, who show-off to crowds of ‘car cruise’ supporters by racing their cars and performing driving stunts and time trials. The vehicles that are used include high performance cars and cars which have been modified in terms of their power. The activities in which drivers engage are noisy, dangerous and illegal, obstructing highways and the premises bordering them, damaging property and putting spectators or other road users at risk of injury or worse. They attract those to whom such anti-social behaviour is an excuse, if they need one, for other types of anti-social behaviour including the harassment and intimidation of law abiding citizens, the threatening and abuse of those who challenge them and the activities in which they are engaging, the use of foul language and misuse of drugs. By its very nature, those attending car-cruising events, whether as drivers, passengers or spectators will vary from day-to-day and event-to-event. However, the total number of attendees will regularly run to several hundred people. They are attracted by advertising on the Internet and in magazines, as well as word of mouth.”

The film The Fast and Furious, featuring illegal street racing, was screened in 2001 and a seventh is planned for 2015. No matter that the participants are law breakers racing on the highways, just as so called Car Cruisers do, it is entertainment and justified therefore despite seeking to glamorise unlawful behaviour.

The reality is that there is nothing glamorous for those suffering as a result; you need only read the judgment above to understand the gravity. Car Cruisers generally pretend that they are Vin Diesel in their very own Hollywood Blockbuster. HHJ Oliver-Jones QC summed it all up perfectly, and I also defer to him as the learned judge in our case did.

Wikipedia states that: “the final destination of the cruise is often kept secret; it is known only to the convoy leaders in an attempt to keep the cruise unknown to the police, until there are a large enough numbers of people at the cruise to make it difficult to disperse”.

The last reference then supplies a telling insight into how all attempts to prevent them have been, until the advent of this newest version of the injunction, doomed to fail. Challenges to obtaining an injunction I was approached by a local authority solicitor whose area, Wolverhampton with Dudley, Sandwell and Walsall, was experiencing the full effect of Car Cruising and its associated issues.

The Black Country Local Authorities were seeking a long term solution to prevent the Car Cruises from causing their residents further misery. They came to me because I had obtained an injunction in the past, but the Black Country Injunction contained several unusual challenges.

Displacement: The Local Authorities are bound together by several dual carriageways. These were perfect for cruisers who used them to race side by side. In addition, these arteries provided getaway routes, meaning if the police arrived at the scene of a cruise, it would displace elsewhere. The Local Authorities wanted a Black Country Wide injunction; in other words, a High County Injunction on a scale never before attempted.

Enforcement: In the past, the injunctions required local authorities to serve individual car cruisers, recording their names on a list so that someone caught a second time would be the subject of a committal application. The problems were potentially having hundreds of people to serve, and the police relying on accurate information being supplied. It gave the cruisers “one free cruise” – not good. Personal service, a safeguard which was crucial in Birmingham City Council v Persons Unknown [2010], therefore had to go.

Arrest: Finally, the Black Country authorities wished to give the police the power to be able to arrest cruisers on the spot, thereby giving the injunction real teeth. Add in to the above requirements the fact that there were over 130 witnesses and allegations dating back many years and all in all, it was a tall order. However, this is how it was achieved…

Categories of nuisance

My immediate concern was the human rights dimension and whether what was being sought was a proportionate response. It took one read through of the Particulars of Claim to comprehend the severity of the consequences of the cruising – to businesses, residents and not least, the authorities themselves.

The problems, addressed hitherto by ad hoc responses to individual “hotspots”, would not go away. Any injunctive remedy was bound to fail if approached on this ad hoc basis, and was therefore no remedy at all.

How the application was tackled:

We first drew up a list of categories of nuisance, which accurately represented the gravamen of the nuisances:

  • Criminal offences
  • Impact on police resources
  • Impact on residents
  • Danger to children
  • Environmental impact
  • Economic loss
  • Impact on A&E and hospital resources.

Emphasising the gravity of the Cruises

HHJ Owen-Jones QC in his summary got it exactly right, which is why the learned judge in our case simply deferred to it; the civil and criminal wrongs committed tell only a fraction of the story, as the reality is assuredly that the legacy of these events, as evidenced in the many witness statements, is nasty, costly, and frankly disgraceful, since it affected everyone from children to uniformed officers.

Dispensing with personal service

Compliance with Article 6 rights involved persuading the court not only as to the above but also that it would be virtually impossible for someone to claim lack of knowledge of the existence of this injunction. Our service solution was to present it as being analogous to a CPR Part 55 trespass scenario and build on it. In the end we devised a host of “steps” that would be implemented.

Once the steps, 26 in all, had been taken, then a witness statement should be supplied to the court confirming their implementation, and the injunction would be effective from this time only.

The 26 “steps” involved a number of broadcasting methods, ranging from (and only by way of examples) media use including YouTube, Facebook etc, to leaflets being supplied with newspapers, projections of the message onto the adjacent walls of present “hotspot” locations and displaying a notice on a van to be driven around.

Obtaining a Black Country-wide order

This was done in two main ways: firstly by reference to “overarching” evidence in support of the “displacement issue”; and secondly by presenting to the court a large map [1;60,000] with 10 clearly marked ‘hotspot’ areas on it.

Power of arrest

Obtaining the power of arrest followed swiftly once the evidence had been drawn together for the court. The judge acknowledged that the psychological harm caused to locals by the cruises came well within the definition required.

Breaking new ground

It was not the law which was problematic, though we presented authorities to the court and plainly had to make the running as to jurisdictional matters. This application was mostly about clear presentation, and being undaunted by the terms of previous Car Cruising Injunctions, arguing instead that as the world evolves, alterations to the approaches of the court, and the finding of relevant solutions for changed times, are necessary.

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Joseph Giret QC

Joseph practised in London until a few years ago, and is now in the top tier of Commercial/Chancery Silks (Legal 500 2014) practising in the Midlands, where he now practises out of chambers in Birmingham.

Anya Newman

Anya is a civil and regulatory barrister with a specialism in dealing with unwanted and anti-social behaviour. She is noted for her work in the social housing sphere and also undertakes judicial review work and civil claims on behalf of local authorities.