Industry

Judge rules against camp at West Newton drill site and awards £10,000 costs

A High Court judge has ordered the removal of a camp outside Rathlin Energy’s exploratory drilling site at West Newton in East Yorkshire.

In a hearing today at Hull Combined Court, His Honour Jeremy Richardson QC granted a possession order to the landowner, Norman Caley Ltd and awarded initial costs of £10,000.

The camp had been used during the summer and autumn by campaigners opposed to Rathlin’s operation and by people monitoring its impact on the environment. There has been no one at the camp since Rathlin Energy cleared the West Newton site last month.

One of the monitors, who calls himself Joe Public, defended the possession order. He told the court consent had been given for the camp and then withdrawn. “I stayed on the land to monitor what Rathlin were doing”, he said.

Mr Public said he had hoped to use the hearing to draw attention to his concerns about Rathlin’s operation. But Judge Richardson restricted discussion to the possession order.

He ordered Mr Public – the only person named on the order – to leave the camp and pay initial costs of £10,000 within 14 days. The landowner’s full claim for costs is to be assessed by the court.

The camp next to Rathlin's West Newton drill site

The camp next to Rathlin’s West Newton drill site

Mr Public asked the judge where could he raise the results of his observations, if he could not do so in the High Court. The judge said he was unable to give Mr Public legal advice.

After the hearing, Mr Public said he was dejected by the result.

“We were given the impression the other side were going to give evidence. We were led into an ambush. We didn’t have a chance to put our evidence”.

He said eight people had agreed to go into the witness box. “We had a meeting with them. They withdrew before the case because they were frightened of being labelled domestic terrorists”, he said.

Asked how he would pay the costs, he said “I don’t even have £10”.

“Costs should not be awarded against me because I took responsibility for something”, he said. “We have tried to do this the lawful route and we have hit a stone wall”.

2 replies »

  1. This is why it is so vital that people get access to proper legal advice and representation: A possession order like this would be decided on existing parliamentary legislation which a court cannot defy, which is fairly straightforward: If someone owns the land and someone else is there for any reason other than mistake, emergency or some kind of land right of their own, a possession order against them will be granted. The case was always a no-win situation for Mr Public and by fighting it, he was always going to make himself liable to costs. If he’d been able to get legal advice, he would have been told this.The case would have been brought by the landowner etc as a simple application for a possession order, which the respondent (Mr Public) would be able to agree to comply with or choose to defend in court. The court is not a place to air views and concerns outside the matters being considered, it is not a political forum, its remit is necessarily narrow. In law there is no relationship between a possession order and someone (technically a trespasser) being there for a laudable reason: The judge is obliged to refuse to hear such evidence because it is irrelevant to the case, which is strictly defined by the claimant’s original cause. A judge cannot deny a possession order because he/she happens to personally morally agree with Mr Public’s protest/activities: he/she can only do so based on legally admissable evidence. Introducing discussion which is exterior to the case is classed as wasting the court’s time, and therefore Mr Public can be obliged to pay for both the court’s time and the claimant’s expenses/legal representation. If Mr Public had access to legal advice, he could have been protected from a case he could not win, and may have been able to counter-sue on another issue himself. This is why affordable access to justice and representation, even in civil cases such as this one, is so vitally important. It IS available from some kind souls if you know where to look – many lawyers are highly altruistic – we’re not all corporate/tax lawyers!

  2. Legal advice was sought and refused from all avenues, press were kept from reporting and a massive badmouthing campaign ensured the result you see. Not a lack of knowledge or energy but a concerted effort from forces unknown.

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