An opponent of shale gas was under surveillance for his role in anti-fracking protests, the High Court in London was told this morning.
The evidence was revealed at the latest hearing in a long-running legal dispute between the campaigner, Ian Crane, and the oil company, Rathlin Energy.
Mr Crane referred to a statement signed by David Corcoran, described as a close protection officer working for the security and investigations company, Tutis Concepts.
In the statement, submitted in evidence by Rathlin Energy, Mr Corcoran, wrote:
“Mr Ian Crane is a well-known protestor and has been under surveillance in connection with protests against fracking. Through this surveillance, I became aware that Mr Crane was to be found in Preston, taking part in a protest.”
Mr Crane was seeking to set aside an order to pay more than £35,000 in costs. The judge at the Royal Courts of Justice refused his application. He also awarded additional costs of £7,000 against Mr Crane for today’s hearing.
Rathlin Energy have asked us to point out that the close protection officer was employed only to serve papers, nothing more. A spokesperson said Rathlin Energy nor its staff had anything to do with any alleged surveillance.
The case dates back to 2014 when opponents of Rathlin Energy’s operations in East Yorkshire, built a structure called Crawberry Castle blocking the entrance of the company’s Crawberry Hill oil exploration site.
The company, which always said it had no plans to frack at Crawberry Hill, applied for permission in the High Court in London to remove the structure. Mr Crane and three other people asked the court to adjourn its decision and, because of local interest, move the case to Hull.
The judge at that hearing refused their request and granted a possession order. In July 2014, bailiffs removed Crawberry Castle. Rathlin Energy sought to recover costs and interest from Mr Crane and the three others.
Surveillance “not legal”
Mr Crane, a broadcaster and speaker on fracking and the onshore oil and gas industry, told this morning’s hearing that the surveillance of him was not a legal activity. He said:
“I have never committed a crime or been arrested. I can imagine the media frenzy if David Montagu-Smith [Rathlin’s chairman] was under surveillance by an anti-fracking group”.
He accused Rathlin Energy of barratry, a legal term for repeated or persistent acts of litigation. He said papers had not been served on other people involved in the case.
“I have personally been targeted. I understand why that might be. I have never made any secret of my concerns about this industry. It is an attempt to neuter me and to curtail my activities.”
“With the benefit of hindsight, by putting myself as a named defendant was a mistake. We did not have the opportunity to get legal advice.”
“Abuse of process”
Mr Crane said there had been an abuse of process in seeking the costs against him. He disputed the company’s account of when important documents had been served on him, including the default costs certificate which was the subject of today’s hearing.
But he admitted:
“I was not motivated to participate and cooperate with Rathlin because I considered them to be operating with less than integrity.”
He accepted that in June last year he had been in Preston where Lancashire County Council was considering applications by Cuadrilla to frack at two sites. Mr Crane said an envelope had been placed on a park bench near where he was sitting but he had not opened it.
He accused Rathlin of breaching his rights under articles 10 and 11 of the Convention on Human Rights. He also said Mr Montagu Smith and the landowner, Philip Ellerington, had made misleading and inaccurate statements at the original possession hearing. Neither were in court today.
Allegations “wholly irrelevant”
Deputy judge Isaacs said these issues did not help Mr Crane’s case. And Tom Shepherd, for Rathlin Energy, said he would not comment on the allegations. He said:
“They are wholly irrelevant. Nothing is admitted in that regard.”
Mr Shepherd said Mr Crane had been served the paperwork about the costs and his application to set aside the default costs certificate had not been made promptly.
Mr Isaacs said Mr Crane had a “deep sense of grievance” about the way he had been treated by the company. But he said there was no basis for the claim of an infringement of Mr Crane’s human rights. Mr Isaacs added that he was satisfied the documents had been properly served. Responding to Mr Crane’s argument that he had been singled out, the judge said that individuals were liable for all the costs.
In refusing Mr Crane’s application, he said:
“There is no reason why the default costs certificate should be set aside”.
Rathlin Energy sought costs of £7,898.40 for the hearing, which lasted about an hour. Mr Shepherd said this covered time needed to read documents submitted by Mr Crane. The judge reduced the costs to £7,000.
After the hearing Mr Crane said he was not shocked by the outcome. He said he should have appealed against the original possession order and would now “have to take the hit”. But he said it would not curtail his activities in seeking to raise awareness about the industry.
A formal bankruptcy application hearing has been set for Wednesday 4 May 2016.
Updated 29/4/2016 to include comment by Rathlin Energy in paragrph 6.
Let’s get this straight then – we are not talking about surveillance by the state based on a reasonable belief that somebody may be , for example, an extremist – we are talking about the fracking companies employing private eyes to spy on people they don’t like – Am I alone on finding that totally unacceptable? I’ve put up with having photos showing the location of my house splashed all over the internet by anonymous shills but this is a whole level worse than that.
I wonder how Francis Egan (whose company has also used Tutis Concepts) or David Montagu-Smith would feel if we put THEM under surveillance. Maybe we should ask them if they’d mind?
John it has been clear that this particular individual Corcoran presumably working for Tutis and under paymasters Cuadrilla, has been performing similar surveillance in the Fylde. I remember meeting you once in Lytham on a morning there was an anti-fracking event at the Windmill and he was spotted by me walking by a few minutes later. What is more worrying is that these individuals boast their military backgrounds and until they realised it was a bad move had their facebook pages showing themselves and their friends in terrorist balaclavas sporting guns. Geza Frackman complained that he was assaulted by either Corcoran or his mate and had his mobile broken on the evening of the St Annes hustings before the May 2015 election.
These are not nice people. The companies who employ them are not nice people. I am no friend of Ian Crane’s but I have to say that he has my respect for standing up to the intimidation these companies generate.
Is this the same Ian Crane who believes that 9/11 was an American put-up job and that the Charlie Hebdo attacks were also fabricated? If he is isn’t then my apologies. If he is then he deserves even more sympathy and possibly an assessment under the Mental Health Act and observation by more kindly folk than private detectives.
In 2016 Jeb Bush had to leave the presidential candidate race due to the missing “28 pages” of the 9/11 report. This staged event happen in 2001, In 2003 Blair and Bush started the illegal war against Iraq without UN sanction. Mark do not believe the propaganda and ask yourself why the most militarised industrial complex could have a 9/11 without there being an order to stand down. My other comment to you is….when a society is acting in such a manner to cause its citizens to break down it is a flawed society. Fracking is bad news and no amount of H&S rules can take that away. If you have children, nephews or nieces I suggest you take a long hard look at what future they will have, if a future at all. Wake up
Mark as an Igas investor, I can understand with the collapse of the share price why you would want to discredit all anti frackers.
Open your curtains Mark, take a look into the real world, turn off the state sponsored TV, do a little research……Then you might understand! 🙂
Mark. Have you yourself done any research on what happened on 9/11 or are you just spouting what you heard and read from the main stream media? I’m assuming you also have total trust in our media and would never question the legitimacy of news items…like what The Sun printed about Hillsborough.
Ian Crane, I’m guessing, has a considerably higher IQ than you do and doesn’t just spout off abusive comments like your comment. His are fact based. So I suggest you do your research in future before you pass comment.
Do you not know what a controlled demolition looks like ?
Strange title for this news. I would have thought something like “Anti Fracker Crane loses his costs appeal and ends up paying more” would be more appropriate. Perhaps he should have taken his “castle” down himself and avoided all this hassle and expense? Or not got involved in the first place and let Raithlin go out about their lawful business. The Barton Moss slow walkers were disciplined enough to avoid prosecution.
Paul, I take it from your comment regarding Barton Moss you didn’t catch this news, which coincidentally came out also yesterday.
I really don’t care about this guy’s history or even mental health, the truth is he is absolutely right to protest fracking, there should be a lot more protests. The sly, dirty and underhanded tricks of the fracking company are unfair and undemocratic. In my view the company should be paying compensation to him for the mental anguish he has no doubt suffered. £35,000 should do nicely.
Why not all chip in and pay his costs if you all believe in him so strongly. Ruth has 566 followers on this board – so if 565 chip in (I certainly won’t) then it is only £62 each. A form of Drill or Drop crowd funding?
I have the utmost respect for the guys down at UKcolumn and am sure Ian R Crane is totally sincere .
Nevertheless , we are going to be using gas to heat our houses for many decades and the chemical industry needs domestically produced bi-products of shale gas extraction e.g. ethane .
So long as the flow back fluids are recycled as much as possible and eventually disposed of in injection disposal wells , there is no reason not to use this technique to extract hydrocarbons domestically .
If natgas were so necessary, the price wouldn’t have fallen off a cliff. More and more countries realise that renewables are becoming technically feasable and make a better business case when the cost of climate change is factored in. Even the Saudis realise that fossil fuel based economies are becoming increasingly more unstable. As for plastics, we have too many of them already. The oceans are filling up with them.