Legal

Anti-fracking campaigner ordered to attend court over Cuadrilla’s £55,000+ legal fees

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Tina Rothery pictured (second left) with the Lancashire Nanas

A prominent anti-fracking campaigner has been ordered to attend court tomorrow morning in a long-running dispute with Cuadrilla over legal fees of more than £55,000.

The company and a group of landowners are claiming costs from Tina Rothery arising from a High Court action in 2014.

This is the second time in similar circumstances that oil and gas companies have pursued leading UK opponents of their operations for legal fees. Last month, the Royal Courts of Justice in London made a bankruptcy order against the campaigner and broadcaster Ian Crane following a request by Rathlin Energy. (See Ian Crane’s case at the end of this post)

Occupation

Ms Rothery’s case dates back to August 2014 when anti-fracking campaigners, including a group called the Lancashire Nanas and members of Reclaim the Power, occupied a field off Preston New Road at Little Plumpton near Blackpool.

The field was near a site where Cuadrilla wanted to frack for shale gas. A few months earlier, the company had submitted a planning application for the Preston New Road site and for another site at Roseacre Wood.

Following the occupation, two Cuadrilla companies and a group of landowners sought a possession order that would allow them to evict the campaigners. The company and the landowners also applied for an injunction to prevent access by members of 17 national and local anti-fracking groups to sites in the area.

Cuadrilla said the occupation had caused disruption and distress to the farmer’s family and his business, although this was disputed at the time by the campaigners.

By the time of the hearing at the High Court in Manchester, the campaigners had left the site. But on their behalf, Ms Rothery asked for an adjournment to allow time to consider the case for the injunction. She was the only named defendant.

She said:

“It was made clear that if no-one stepped forward to say they would be the ‘named defendant’ that proceedings would go ahead without our involvement or possibly by selecting from video footage.

“Aside from being an integral part of this, I am also much lighter on responsibilities than others and also own very little; so my name went forward. I had no real idea of what would come but allowed a solicitor to represent me and to call for an adjournment so I could get advice.”

“Head above the parapet”

At the next hearing in October 2014, Ms Rothery offered no evidence and the injunction was imposed. The judge ordered her to pay part of the claimants’ costs. During evidence, it was revealed that Cuadrilla was paying the legal fees of the 10 landowners who lived at four different addresses.

Cuadrilla claimed costs of more than £60,000, later reduced by a costs officer. The judge at the hearing said:

“I am concerned that Ms Rothery was to bear the costs on her own; but the solution, it seems to me, would be for Ms Rothery to invite contributions to the order for costs from those who support her views and position, and on whose behalf she had put her head above the parapet.

“If Ms Rothery had kept quiet, an injunction would have been granted, avoiding the need for this hearing. As it is, this hearing has been necessary”.

Arguments over costs

It was argued on Ms Rothery’s behalf that the costs claimed on Cuadrilla’s behalf were excessive. She was one of many defendants and to make her liable for the whole cost would penalise her for exercising her human right to be heard. Cuadrilla’s lawyer, Eversheds, defended the costs in court documents, saying the case was complex and involved several areas of civil and criminal law.

In January 2015, Ms Rothery offered to pay £500, which Eversheds, rejected.

In May that year, the court issued a final costs certificate for £51,594.53 and ordered it should be paid by 10 July 2015. Ms Rothery did not pay and since then interest has been added at a rate of 8%. A court document now puts the figure at £55,342.37 and interest will continue to accrue until the debt is paid.

Cuadrilla said Ms Rothery “had a full opportunity to make submissions on what she consider that she should and should not pay”.

Tomorrow’s court session

Ms Rothery, who is now not represented by a lawyer, has been ordered to attend at Blackpool Law Courts at 10am. She will be required to give information under oath about her finances. There will not be a judge and Cuadrilla nor the landowners will be present.

If Ms Rothery fails to attend, the court has warned that she may be “sent to prison for contempt of court”.

Ms Rothery said:

“I will tell the Court Officers that I will not pay any amount. More than the simple fact of not being able to pay, this is about reaching my own line-in-the-sand point in this long struggle.

“I now see clearly that this industry (like many others I expect) uses anything it can to silence opposition and time and again, uses our law courts against peaceful protesters.

“I believe our law courts should be about seeing true justice, not as a weapon against opposition. Our law courts and legal system are a costly indulgence that eats time and money that activists just don’t have.

“I don’t know what happens next but do know that as I am protecting my young I will not be stopped because this is an obligation, not a choice.”

Cuadrilla said today

“There are several steps claimants can take if they want to pursue recovery of the costs and the landowners will review this following the information gained from tomorrow’s proceedings.”

Timeline of case

Ian Crane’s case

Ian CraneDrillOrDrop has reported on the case of Ian Crane, who was made bankrupt following an application by Rathlin Energy, a drilling company with operations in East Yorkshire. His case has parallels with Ms Rothery’s.

In July 2014, a group of campaigners occupied land at Crawberry Hill, at one of Rathlin’s exploration sites. The company applied to the High Court in London for a possession order. Mr Crane and three others asked for the case to be adjourned and moved to Hull because of the public interest in it.

The judge refused and granted a possession order to Rathlin Energy. The company then sought to recover costs from Mr Crane alone, amounting to £34,000 plus interest and additional costs and legal fees.

After the final hearing in May 2016, Mr Crane said:

“It is my opinion that the whole process here is an abuse of process.”

“Rathlin have made a point of targeting myself as one of the four named defendants. The reason for that is very clear. I have been a very vocal critic of Rathlin Energy. I have highlighted many of the problems they have caused in East Yorkshire.”

He said the company was seeking to “limit and restrict” his activities by making him bankrupt.

But he added:

“It is an inconvenience rather than a catastrophe. I do not have any property or any assets so there is nothing to shut down.”

DrillOrDrop report of Ian Crane bankruptcy hearing

17 replies »

  1. There would not be a second time nor even a first if people abided by the law.
    Everyone has a right to protest about the issue they believe in, as long as they do it lawfully.
    Trespass is not lawful.

    An expensive error of judgement by Ms. Rothery and her partners in crime, but ut appears the partners have left Ms. Rothery holding the can.

    Perhaps the hat coukd be passed around to those who support Ms. Rothery’s cause? I’m sure Ruth, John, jackthelad and others will gladly help her cause.

  2. There seems to be complete freedom to protest within the law. You can make banners and wave them, post anything you want whether it be true or not through people’s letter boxes etc. You can organise campaigns to put pressure on politicians and councillors. Write in to planning applications etc.

    What you cannot do is break the law and except to get away with it. Once you think you are above the law that applies to everyone else then you’ve lost the plot and will be subject to the law. Whether that is occupying some else’s land, or committing other crimes. The law must apply to everyone and it is no defence to imagine that there is some huge conspiracy against you just because you lose.

  3. Mr Crane’s wide-ranging opinions are fascinating. His reasoning seems extraordinary. I only had a quick look at his video today. I would suggest those considering supporting him should take a few minutes to view his website and understand his opinions, especially on the connections between disparate geopolitical events and the possibility of overarching geopolitical conspiracies.

    • How is this above the law? We are constantly told about our rights of freedom of speech especially in cases where racial hatred is promoted, that it is more important to be able to state views than lose this, often papers print anything they want to as the right wing press has stirred up feelings against European powers? Yet on something as important as this where health and the environment could be affected trespass is seen as a serious crime? Can you imagine giving a burglar or intruder a penalty like this,many crimes in which people are assaulted receive a slap on the wrist so why is a protest treated like this? Look at the recent attempt to overturn councils right to refuse fracking, is this alright when protest is not?

  4. Fantastic News! Let us hope Ms Tina Rothery has to pay up ! These Anti Fracking protestors obviously think they are above the LAW !

    • ..what you mean like as in international capitalism..i.e multinationals and international law /trade structures so that one state like Norway can force another like india {a company in } to stop producing solar panels.

      • This is not a fair comment and a bit ignorant. Noone is forcing anyone to do anything. India has the freedom to make and whatever solar it deem viable. Anyone can buy it at whatever price they deem reasonable. By your exertion you are suggesting Norway is to give up their income via oil gas production (i assume this is what you are trying to imply) give way forIndia or China to sell solar panels to EU. This is the the reverse of force on Norway and hypocritical.

  5. ..yes little Malcolm like google and apple and amazon and whichever coffee shops they r which choose to fight their battles in a different countries law courts like the U Ks in particular and who pay their workers in gold bars and cash..the law courts and the city of London…all hail king boris Johnson.

  6. This is a set up by Cuadrilla Resources, plain and simple. Designed to punish a selfless and very successful grassroots activist. Of course, the massive support for Tina shows that this will serve to shame Cuadrilla and by so doing, tar all the fracking companies with the same brush.

    Cuadrilla take their PR advice from Bell Pottinger, the most unashamedly reprehensible of all PR companies, by way of a character called Mark Linder. His team have made mistakes in the last but this vicious attack on a grandmother will turn out to be the greatest. He and Bell Pottinger are morally reprehensible. De Facto, so are Cuadrilla. The public aren’t stupid. They will now associate any promises of caring for the community from Cuadrilla with such vile behaviour. Cuadrilla, you are now morally and ethically moribund, we know now that you lie when you promise that your drilling has our well being as a priority.

    And Mark Linder? Shame on you.

    I’d request that people reading these comments consider how it is that a cluster of pro fracking comments appear here in such organised fashion on the most respected non corporate grassroots media source on #fracking issues. You would be exceptionally naive not to think that the armoury of strategies that groups like Bell Pottinger employ include using individuals to generate astroturf actions.

    78% of the country are against #fracking. And that is despite the pro fracking PR blitzkrieg and a government in bed with the industry.

    We are proud of Tina Louise and we are very, very many. We will never forget that Cuadrilla attacked a grandmother purely because she stood up to them. It’s the biggest mistake they and their PR representatives have ever done.

    • Jamie so please set me straight if you would.

      Are you suggesting that the pro frackers who appear on this biased web-website are in fact corporate plants?

      If that is what you are suggesting then that is the most ridiculous assertion I have ever read,

      Ms. Rothrey may be a champion crusader for thr anti-fracking cause and good luck to her for her devotion but she and numerous others are law-breakers, no more no less.

      If you and many others are so ptoud of her for her stance then chip in and help her pay her debt to society that was determined by the legal fraternity, not Cuadrilla.

  7. As I understand it, they only were camped in the field for three weeks and they left the land clean and in good order. Whilst this is trespass the legal fees seem excessive for three weeks occupation with no damage.

    I do not intend this question to be in any way derogatory or negative towards travellers but I wonder when travellers occupy land how often they are sued in court for tens of thousands of pounds?

    This seems overly harsh under the circumstances and I think Cuadrilla are intent on making an example of Ms Rothery, as did the company that sued Ian Crane. The issue is however that neither Mr Crane nor Ms Rothery intend to stop fighting fracking. As neither have the means to pay the costs – bankrupting them just incurs even more costs to the fracking firms, so there is definitely an element of vindictiveness as it serves no benefit to the company.

    Whilst bankrupting Mr Crane and Ms Rothery may cause them some inconvenience, it is clearly something they are prepared to accept for their cause. Many people will consider bankrupting individuals with very little financial means does not portray the industry in a good light and it will no doubt create martyrs. And this sacrifice for their cause will in turn will harden the resolve of those opposed to fracking and recruit more support.

    No one likes a bully and people are far more likely to sympathise with David than Goliath.

  8. Oh come off it KT.

    You cannot defend the indefensible.

    She and others broke the law. Simple. They occupied for 3 weeks land that belonged to another party. Occupied uninvited.

    Ms. Rothrey was left high and dry by her so-called followers, left her to take the fall, I don’t call that unity towards the cause.

    Whether both Mr. Crane or Ms. Rothrey continue with their fight against fracking would be the last thing Cuadrilla would be concerning themselves with, but they would be intent on the law being enforced, and rightly so.

    Your final comment relating to this case being seen as a David versus Goliath is indicative of how you anti-frackers hope to be seen, hoping for the sympathy vote when in fact you are nothing like it at all. It’s all about perception.

    Protest by all means, that is the right of any community member fighting for any cause, but protest legally not illegally.

    • I understand Ms Rothery volunteered to be named in the action as she had no assets – and she has also turned down offers of financial assistance as a matter of principle – so far from being left high and dry.

      And I disagree, for committing trespass for three weeks with no damage – the costs are excessive and there is no benefit to Cuadrilla to spend thousands more to bankrupt someone who cannot pay the debt.

      I think many people will agree. Trespass (a civil offence) obviously occurred and that is not in question – but the sum is excessive and my comment about David and Goliath is nothing to do with your accusation of being “anti fracking” it reflects the situation i.e. a company with £millions demanding an inappropriate amount of costs and bankrupting a person that never had the financial means to pay.

      • The law is the law KT and Ms. Rothrey being the professional activist she is should have known the consequences of her actions.

        Ignorance is not an excuse.

        Cuadrilla by the way isn’t responsible for setting the limit of her fine, that fact is determined by the court system. They merely are seeking recompense for their costs incurred. An action any successful party would follow in a win/lose legal battle.

        Whether you acknowledge it or not she has been left high and dry by some within your movement.
        Unless she files for bankruptcy she WILL have to pay the fine she and many others who took part in their unlawful act, committed.

        Numerous posters on this biased site are hailing her a champion of the cause, you included. How deep is your pocket? If she is so feverishly revered by the many thousands within your movementthen surely if you all chip in and contribute, her fine will be easily paid.

      • Hello Paul – I have followed the EU debate so far as fracking and climate change is concerned with interest. Many people were very concerned about TTIP and viewed the EU as undemocratic and believed more “pressure” could be placed on a directly elected government – so it wasn’t straight forward. As everywhere in the UK the opinion was divided and also the issue about the EU is of course far wider than just fracking.

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