Legal

INEOS dossier of social media posts and video used to support protest injunction

171031 Ineos injunction dod

Challenge to INEOS injunction outside the High Court, 31 October 2017. Photo: DrillOrDrop

The UK’s biggest shale company has collected hundreds of Facebook posts and tweets, running to more than 3,000 pages, in support of its injunction against anti-fracking protests.

INEOS Shale gave details of some of the posts and messages at a hearing at the High Court today. It was seeking to continue the injunction first granted at a private hearing in July.

The company was making its case that the order was needed because it said there was “a real and imminent threat” of being targeted by unlawful protests. It told the court the injunction was needed because “the damage would be done” if it didn’t have the protection of the court.

The injunction covers INEOS sites and properties, proposed traffic routes, activities of its staff and contractors and premises belonging to its supply chain.

People who breach the injunction could be found in contempt of court and face prison or seizure of their assets, INEOS has said.

The hearing, which is expected to last three days, follows a challenge by two anti-fracking campaigners: Joe Corre, son of the fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, and Joe Boyd.

Their lawyers argue that the injunctions should never have been granted and should now be discharged or not renewed. They will say the injunction is an unlawful interference with the rights to freedom of expression and assembly under the Human Rights Act.

“Evidence of treat, damage and harassment”

Janet Bignell QC, for INEOS, said 22 videos submitted to the court provided evidence of harassment, threats, trespass and damage to company property.

She read large numbers of online messages, collected from Twitter, anti-fracking Facebook groups and websites.

A message “We’ve got pallets” was, she said, evidence of a direct threat that protesters would establish a camp and build structures from pallets.

Messages identifying INEOS vehicles in local car parks were, she said, “a clear threat to employees and criminal damage to vehicles.

Taking photos of the INEOS team was, she said, evidence of attempted harassment.

Ms Bignell also referred to messages in which people said “Set the dogs on them” and “A 12-bore would be better” as evidence of a risk to staff.

“Not curtailing lawful protest”

This morning, INEOS’s other QC, Alan Maclean, said the company was seeking to continue its interim injunction to prevent interruption of its activities across the country by anti-fracking protesters.

Mr Maclean said

“My client is concerned about the ability to conduct their lawful business. We are not interested in attempting to curtail lawful protest.”

He said the injunction order did not prohibit anything that was lawful.

He acknowledged that protesters had the right to freedom of expression and assembly, under Articles 10 and 11 of the Convention of Human Rights. But he said they must be balanced against INEOS’s right to enjoy its property and possessions without interference. He said:

“It is extremely rare that Articles 10 and 11 can override property rights.”

Mr Maclean said INEOS had provided evidence of examples of peaceful lawful protest that would not be covered by the injunction.

“There is absolutely nothing to prevent defendants from carrying out their protests lawfully and effectively elsewhere and/or by other means that do not involve interfering with the rights of the claimant and breaching domestic law.”

Slow walking protests

The judge, Mr Justice Morgan, suggested that a key issue for the injunction was the protest tactic of slow walking, where campaigners walk slowly in front of a lorry delivering to a site. Some police forces have facilitated slow walks and some courts have acquitted campaigners arrested for allegedly obstructing the highway during these protests.

The judge put it to Mr Maclean:

“Obstruction could be reasonable and would not be an offence”.

Mr Maclean replied:

“It is very hard to see why that type of slow walking could ever be said to be anything other than obstruction of the highway.”

He said:

“The extent of the interference that anti-shale gas protest tends to cause with the rights of others – not just my clients – but the industry and suppliers, other members of the public, is significant.”

But slow walking has been defended in a witness statement, expected to be heard tomorrow, from the MP Caroline Lucas. She said a constraint on slow walking was “extremely worrying and detrimental to our democracy”. She said:

“Reasonable obstructions of the highway, such as slow walking and peaceful protests are legitimate tactics in the anti-fracking and other political and civic movements.

“Slow walking has become a particularly important form of protesting in the anti-fracking movements across the UK.”

Opponents of the injunction have argued that protesters, who obstruct the highway, could face a conditional discharge if found guilty in a criminal court. But they could have their assets seized or go to prison if found in contempt of court for breaching the injunction.

The judge said:

“The courts should be thoughtful about the way its order may be used. If I give an order that is going to give rise to contempt proceedings that may be judged to be undesirable. An infringer could go to prison for two years, while a magistrate would deal with obstruction pretty reasonably.

“I should be alive of the consequences of what I do.”

Persons unknown

The injunction applies to several different categories of “persons unknown” across eight named properties and plots of land, as well as other unidentified sites across the country.

The judge described how a person who was not covered by the injunction would do so immediately they stepped off a footpath onto a piece of land referred to in the order.

He put it to Mr Maclean:

“It is a remarkable state of affairs. The general rule is that you name a defendant, who becomes a party. The order is made against the person and he or she knows they are not allowed to do this and if they do it there will be consequences.

“You’re not saying specifically what is prohibited or not, so there’s uncertainty about what is allowed or not – is it unreasonable or not?”

Mr Maclean replied:

“It is entirely justified when you have a developing section of industry which is lawful, controversial, of significance economically, which is opposed root and branch by well-organised protesters who have shown themselves not always to be respectful of private property boundaries.”

Disclosure duty

The challengers to the injunction have also argued that INEOS failed to give information to the judge that they should have done.

They said INEOS Shale’s Operations Director, Tom Pickering, had “unfairly characterised the nature of opposition to hydraulic fracturing”. He is also alleged to have over-stated the extent to which a “scientific consensus” that hydraulic fracturing is safe exists and failed to make clear that the exhibits he identified as supporting his proposition were INEOS’ own publicity material.

Mr Maclean denied there had been a breach. He said:

“The duty of candour is not to be applied in a disproportionate, unrealistic or unduly stringent manner, such as would make its discharge impossible to achieve in practice.”

Tomorrow the court will hear from lawyers for Joe Boyd and Joe Corre. They will argue that the injunction is:

  • Not prescribed by law or necessary in a democratic society
  • Conduct is prohibited already under criminal law
  • Need has not been convincingly established by evidence
  • Injunctions have to date failed to prevent any alleged criminality.

The case is expected to continue until Thursday.

Reports from day 2 and day 3 of the injunction hearing


This report was made possible by donations from individual readers of DrillOrDrop

38 replies »

    • ‘Messages identifying INEOS vehicles in local car parks were, she said, “a clear threat to employees and criminal damage to vehicles.

      Taking photos of the INEOS team was, she said, evidence of attempted harassment.’

      This is already covered by existing legislation.

      ‘Ms Bignell also referred to messages in which people said “Set the dogs on them” and “A 12-bore would be better” as evidence of a risk to staff.’

      Most persons receiving posts like this refer them to the social media site for follow up.

      This feels like a very weak case.

  1. If INEOS are subjected to unlawful protests, then they should be dealt with by the police, as they will be, er, unlawful. There is no need for an injunction that dramatically increases the punishment for non-violent offences. INEOS seem to be really clutching at straws here if all they have to offer is a Facebook message saying, ‘We’ve got pallets’. Pathetic.

  2. “Taking photos of the INEOS team was, she said, evidence of attempted harassment.”

    So INEOS would support any case against Cuadrilla’s security guards who continually harass (their definition not mine) people at the gates by taking photos of them on their phones.

    These poor little fluffy bunnies – it’s hard to believe that only recently they played such hardball with the unions at Grangemouth isn’t it? Now they seem to get a fit of the vapours when somebody takes their picture.

  3. Interesting, I think the Judge will come down hard on the protestors. I anticipate ‘slow walks’ may be allowed to continue however, they will be regulated and if they are broken then all rights for future slow walks will be removed. I don’t think any camps will be allowed near the sites due to intimidation and the nuisance caused to the general public by the protestors.
    One thing for certain is that the antis have a poor case against the injunction and it will not be removed.
    I sense a bit of law and order will be introduced into the lives of many protestors which may do them some good for life in general.

    • Its fascinating because there is no proof that the so called social media are anything other than the empty ineffectual rhetoric we see posted here by the anti anti’s?

      We have seen all sorts of threats from them including capital punishment, spraying people with manure, encouraging the police to “beat up” the protesters?

      Also how do we know that the PR firms and their paid employees……did not post these threats themselves in order to directly implicate the protesters?

      i also suspect the Reclaim The Power group has exacerbated and contaminated legal protest with exactly the media staged inflamed actions that Ineos wanted, and i wonder at the source and funding of that too, particularly just before the court case, it was just too convenient?

      Like i said before, the ohandgee industry always like to play both sides of the game to get what they want.

      The police take videos and photos of the protesters and their cars? The sites have video coverage of the protesters also? Ineos cant have it all ways, what is harassment for them is also harassment for the protesters?

      If they had talked to everyone when we suggested years ago, telling them the truth and obeying all the regulations people would trust them, but they haven’t, in fact they have done quite the opposite, and now people don’t trust them in the slightest.

      I would not predict the result, that rather depends upon a number of factors, but the anti anti attempt to talk up the as yet impossible to predict result has fallen on stoney ground before, so perhaps should be taken with the same pinch of salt judging from the record of recent success rates?

          • An interesting situation is emerging in USA regarding accusations of Russian money advertising on political sites?

            The implication being, one assumes, is that any Russian advertising is an attempt to influence USA elections?

            This is a curious myopic view since apparently US advertisers also support Russian and other countries sites including our own, and no doubt equally in reverse?

            Also there is evidence that certain media sites are run by US and other government funded organisations. But that is OK it seems?

            So what we really have here it seems is a very dirty game being played by all sides through social media and hacking.

            Russia, North Korea, USA, UK, EU, China, and just about every country and corporation are involved in the new undeclared and secret media war being waged as we watch.

            Talk of censoring such digital commerce and media conflict indicate how that plays out for all sides.

            The ones to suffer from all this social media platform conflict will be us of course while they play out their power games.

            Chinese style media censorship and criminal charges and arrest without trial for so much as viewing a forbidden site will soon emerge here, plans are all ready in place.
            Even the Chinese are envious of the far reaching censorship proposals.

            This reflects in the present injunction court case too. Charges of threats on social media are being used to damn protest and support Ineos in a curious conflicting and confabulated manner in order to achieve their particular agenda, and perhaps are part of a wider Ineos agenda to control media by association?

            It would be interesting to reveal the barely concealed media war being waged on behalf of the pro frackers own web sites where it seems anything goes but any defence of anti frackers is instantly deleted?
            Go look at the venom and vindictiveness and attempts to isolate and identify posters who support the anti fracking side there? Or is that not admissible?

            The first casualty of war is always truth, the first casualty of this Ineos injunction is apparently basic human rights..

            Do we really want to lie back and sleep through this barely concealed attack on us all and let such attempted confabulation attempts to remove the very basis on which a free democracy stands upon? That of free uncensored communication between all.

            Time to wake up isn’t it.

  4. So, 22 videos and 1300 pages looks like a very weak case? Only if you quote one phrase from the total, but that is one phrase, not the total. Simples.

  5. Like your numbers John. I’m sure the Judge will love to see the Private Investors comments about swampies, therefore will they be banned from going anywhere near campaigners?

  6. I really love it when all of the propaganda, the threats, the violation of others’ rights, and the lies from the anti-fracking community come home to roost. Grab some popcorn! This is fun.

  7. People vs #INEOS Notso Happy Halloween #Fracking #ToryDirtyMoney Whatever this awful company, with it’s appalling safety record says, stinks of #ToryDirtyMoney. As a Yorkshire-man I don’t want #Yorkshire turned into a gas-field of contaminated ground water, where everyone is having to buy water on a daily basis from Nestle, because that seems to be the plan. I lived through the civil war / miners strike in Yorkshire cause by Thatcher and her stinking government and this just seems the same thing over and over again. When is Yorkshire going to declare independence from this ?

  8. I have been made aware that security personnel at a number of fracking sites video protesters and note car registration numbers. So should the protesters take out a similar injunction to prevent harassment by fracking companies? If there is a large, peaceful gathering on the highway, and let us be clear the highway includes verges and footpaths, under this draconian proposal, said unknown person could quite unknowingly be obstructing or interfering with an Ineos employee or their contractor. In protest situations there must be some degree of discretion and tolerance as any offence committed is usually minor. There are already laws that deal with trespass, harassment, public order and obstruction. Many of the offences committed by protesters are dealt with by magistrates and if convicted the likely outcome is a fine. There are legal remedies available to the courts to ban individuals from specific areas if appropriate. But the key legal issue here is individual and specific not a blanket ban. The legal implications are significant and I suspect if this injunction is granted it will not rest here because it flies in the face of our laws, civil liberties and human rights.

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