Industry

Cuadrilla injunction granted – but judge rejects £54,000 costs claim

The interim injunction granted to the drilling company Cuadrilla and a group of Lancashire landowners to prevent protests on proposed fracking sites has been extended unopposed at Manchester High Court.

But the judge rejected the company’s application for legal costs of £54,000 against a single anti-fracking campaigner. It was also confirmed for the first time that Cuadrilla is paying the legal costs of the landowners.

The case centred on four areas of land at Little Plumpton and Roseacre, where Cuadrilla has submitted two planning applications to drill and hydraulically fracture shale gas wells. It was brought following the establishment of an anti-fracking camp by a group of grandmothers for three weeks in August in a field belonging to one of the landowners.

At a hearing on August 28th, the claimants (Cuadrilla and the owners) sought an injunction against “persons unknown” and a wide range of anti-fracking groups. That case was adjourned when an anti-fracking campaigner, Tina Louise Rothery, asked for more time to consider opposing the injunction.

Today’s case was against Miss Rothery, “person’s unknown” and anyone who accessed the land. It centred on legal costs because Miss Rothery did not contest the terms of the injunction.

Tom Roscoe, for Cuadrilla and the landowners, said Miss Rothery was liable for the costs because the claimants had been the successful parties. He said evidence of this included the end of the occupation of the field days before the first hearing.

If Miss Rothery had not requested an adjournment, Mr Roscoe said, there would have been no need for today’s hearing. He said the claimants had sought to limit the costs, which otherwise would have been above £100,000.

Mr Roscoe said Miss Rothery had played a key role in organising the occupation of the field and she had publicised the action. He also accused her for making misleading statements about the previous hearing.

He said the rights of freedom of expression and assembly under the European Convention on Human Rights did not legalise trespass or protect a person from liability for costs.

When asked by Judge David Hodge why no VAT had been added to the costs, Mr Roscoe said it was because the VAT could be claimed back. “Is this because Cuadrilla is paying”, asked the judge. “Yes”, said Mr Roscoe.

Felicity Williams, for Miss Rothery, said there should be no order for costs. She said the claimants had not been successful because at the previous hearing they had failed in their attempt to outlaw any actions that encouraged or instructed people to oppose fracking. The only issue that divided the two sides had been the timescale of the injunction against trespass, she said, and Miss Rothery had sought to come to an agreement over that.

Miss Williams said the costs of £54,000 was “manifestly excessive”, adding: “there is a danger that the level of costs will have a chilling effect on the rights to protest and on access to the courts”.

She said additional evidence submitted by the claimants today was unnecessary and some of it duplicated material submitted at the previous hearing. She also accused the claimants of trying to tarnish Miss Rothery’s reputation. Miss Williams said there had been confusion about the scope of the injunction imposed by the previous hearing and this had been clarified only by a transcript made available recently.

Judge Hodge said he was satisfied the claimants had won the case, to which members of the public gallery wearing anti-fracking black and yellow shouted “absolutely not” . The judge extended the injunction to 28 days after a decision was made on planning permission. If this was unexpectedly delayed, he said, the injunction could continue for no more than two years.

He described the costs as considerable and questioned both the hourly rate and the number of hours sought by the claimants. “In my judgement”, he said, “it would not be just to visit considerable costs of bringing these proceedings on one of the trespassers just because she raised her head above the parapet and submitted to be joined to the proceedings. If she had kept quiet the burden of costs would have fallen on the claimants and Cuadrillla. It seems to be to be wrong that she should be subjected to excessive costs.”

He ordered that a separate judge should assess the costs and, as he put it, “scrutinise their reasonableness and proportionality”.

The judge said that in seeking the adjournment, Miss Rothery made today’s hearing inevitable. “In these circumstances I am certain that Miss Rothery has to bear these costs on her own”. He suggested that she invite people who supported her to contribute.

Reaction to the hearing coming soon.

12 replies »

  1. Thanks Ruth for an account of the hearing. This leaves me in something of a dilemma. I have no wish to offend anyone, but as this is bound to generate negative media coverage I feel bound to ask the questions which puzzle me.

    The whole point of this hearing was to allow time for submission of a defence case, but then no defence case was offered? And in the meantime because of a robust opposition an interim injunction was granted not only against someone who took upon herself to become a named defendant, and others who had indeed for a while occupied land at Preston New Road, but against any other person?

    And the original injunction because of lack of adequate opposition was granted against any trespass of a totally unrelated site?

    There is something very wrong here. And I suggest that this is not only due to the court decision-making, but on an inadequate defence.

    Whatever, something has gone very wrong. It would be a big shame if an inexperienced campaigner had been misled into putting herself in the frame for potential legal costs, but frankly I find it hard from a legal point of view to object to the judge’s reported comments.

    • Hi Alan. Thanks for your comments. I’ll be trying to find out what happened over the next couple of days and will keep you posted.

  2. She was inexperienced with the legal cost but the judge decision is legally correct. I think Green peace and Friend of the Earth and organizations alike should contribute here. She did their jobs and it would be ashamed if they don’t chip in with their abundant financial resource. Good luck Tina.

  3. How and where does Cuadrilla’s attempt to stop people encouraging objections and actions (or whatever it was) via social media etc fit into this court case? It seems to have got lost amongst the trespass…, but to me seemed by far the most serious part of the case – in implication. Was it part of the same court case? Im guessing that’s the bit which prompted people to call out from the gallery in disagreement with what had been won..

  4. Hi Beki Thanks for your comment. At the previous hearing of this case on August 28th the claimants (Cuadrilla and the landowners) failed to secure their injunction against anyone doing anything that might encourage or instruct others to protest against fracking. This was the social media part of the case and was therefore not part of yesterday’s hearing.

  5. I think we have to look at this from a detached point of view and one issue we should bear in mind IMO is that if we oppose the government’s plans to change the trespass laws to allow the frackers not only to drill under their land but create permanent waste disposal sites there, we should also share respect in general for a farmer’s (or any other landowner’s) rights to defend their property against HARMFUL AND UNLAWFUL trespass.

    The law has been used in an incredibly successful way to show that police action at Balcombe and at Barton Moss was NOT lawful, and that many false arrests and charges were made. We should not assume, however, that the law is always on our side. If we put up against the law we take a risk. Sensible legal advice should cover whether we should act with our hearts or our minds.

    Let#s not fight battles we can’t win. It divests us of too much energy.

  6. Hi Beki.

    One thing that emerged from the Balcombe situation, when FoE and others pressed the EA to re-evaluate their attitude to their potential granting of environmental licences, in particular waste disposal, is that they were forced to agree that Cuadrilla neede not only a waste management licence (ie temporary arrangements to store and dispose of waste) but a waste FACILITY licence. What this meant was that Cuadrilla had to apply for a permanent site licence to dispose of waste. This was confirmed as meaning that it was recognised that Cuadrilla’s activities (even non-fracking haha at Balcombe, but certainly any shale gas fracking activity was regarded under EU etc regulations as requiring the BELOW GROUNBD dumping of waste as requiring a site = facility licence.

    In other words, the EA had to admit that stuffing fracking liquids down the hole not only generated a surcae return of all sorts of serious waste, but that the majority of what they injected and became combined with chemicals and radioactivity from the rock remained IN THE GROUND. The required a facility licence to allow them to create an undergound waste dump.

  7. So fracking the horizontals under landowners’ land creates a permanent waste disposal site under their land.

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