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Harassment claim against "creepy" uncle struck out

12 January 2010

An uncle accused of stroking his 14-year-old niece’s shoulders in a “creepy” way almost 20 years ago should not have been the subject of an ex parte harassment injunction, the High Court has ruled.

Returning from a family funeral in the Philippines, Paul Lovell was arrested at Heathrow airport the moment his plane landed and kept in the cells overnight before being released.

Mr Justice Eady said his niece Jenny Andresen, now aged 33, sought an injunction under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, having obtained an interim injunction in August.

Giving judgment in Andresen and Andresen v Lovell [2009] EWHC 3397 (QB), he said the niece claimed that nearly 20 years ago her uncle “stood against her and stroked her shoulders in a ‘creepy’ way”.

She also relied on an incident this year when Lovell visited the premises where her mother, Lovell’s sister, worked.

“He asked to see her mother,” Eady J said. “He was concerned at that time about the apparent disappearance of £20,000 which he had entrusted to his sister for the purposes of carrying out repairs and improvements at their mother’s home after she suffered a fall.

“He believed that his sister had helped herself to at least part of those funds, the balance of which she was supposed to return to him when the works were completed. Be that as it may, when the defendant called at the premises his sister happened to be out and his niece told him that she would be back later.

“There is no suggestion that he knew that his sister was absent at the time, or that he had chosen to visit at that particular moment in order, in some way, to target his niece. According to his evidence, he was there for no more than a minute and his niece was quite normal in her manner.

“Yet this apparently inconsequential visit is said to have shaken her to such an extent that she could not then bear to be left alone on the premises.”

Eady J said that an ex parte application for an injunction was made in London while Lovell was away in the Philippines at his former wife’s mother’s funeral.

The judge said the court was deliberately given the impression that the uncle had “done a bunk”.

However, he went on: “There is no doubt that the defendant was, at least in part, the author of his own misfortune, since he unwisely published allegations on the internet to the effect that his sister’s business or businesses had closed down following investigations into fraud.”

Mr Justice Eady said Lovell did this through three websites, with similar names to his sister’s websites, one of which he closed down and the other two he ‘parked’ so that they were inactive.

He said Lovell’s niece claimed her uncle had “never had a normal relationship with a woman”, despite attending his wedding in 1995. Eady J said the niece made other allegations based on rumour, speculation or hearsay.

Eady J said he did not “underestimate how disquieting an unwanted grope from a 'creepy' uncle might be for a 14-year-old girl”, but, if it happened, it was an isolated incident nearly 20 years ago which had never been raised before.

He said the niece’s allegations did not provide “a solid basis for apprehending any harassment of her by the defendant, at or after the time the proceedings were launched. Her claim stands, therefore, to be struck out as disclosing no cause of action.”

Mr Justice Eady said he was yet to hear why her mother should be granted an injunction in respect of any threat.

“It is nonetheless plainly desirable that the parties keep out of each other’s way and do not communicate except when necessary, for example in connection with matters of genuine family concern or the resolution of the financial dispute. It would also be sensible to avoid incurring further legal costs which I understand they can ill afford.”

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Procedures Local government