INEOS protest injunction having a “chilling effect” on fracking debate, court told


March from Mosborough to Eckington in north Derbyshire. Photo: Jeanette Teare

Opponents of fracking are becoming over-cautious to avoid breaching an injunction granted to theUK’s biggest shale gas company, the High Court heard today.

One person said in a statement:

“We all felt like we could not even go and talk to people from INEOS in case we were accused of intimidating the staff”.

Another said:

“We cannot hope to protect ourselves against the risks from the injunction. … This is likely to lead me to erring on the side of extreme caution.”

INEOS Shale is seeking to renew the injunction, which stops anti-fracking protests from interrupting its operations and supply chain. People who breach the order could have their assets seized or go to prison.

Two campaigners, Joe Boyd and Joe Corre, are challenging the injunction, arguing that it breaches human rights, is unnecessary and based on “flimsy evidence”.

Heather Williams, for Mr Boyd, said:

“People are being unduly cautious in their behaviour in order to avoid breaching the injunction.

“The terms of the order are impermissibly broad and vague, causing significant concern to a large number of people and creating an impermissible chilling effect on the right to assembly and or protest. It cannot be right to put people in that sort of jeopardy.”

INEOS said the injunction does not outlaw anything which is not already illegal.

But the order applies to some protest strategies, such as slow walking, which are tolerated by some police forces. It also covers anyone who does anything to help another to breach the injunction.

Ms Williams said:

“People who would be disseminating information about INEOS or organising protest meetings are worried that they may come under the injunction.

“It could cover someone who gives a person a lift to an assembly or brings hot drinks to protesters at an assembly. It could cover a journalist who disseminates information about an assembly at which slow walking takes place.”

Ms Williams said the injunction was so wide in the range of people and activities that it sought to protect that INEOS Shale had not been able to identify a precedent.

INEOS has presented about 3,000 pages of evidence from campaigners’ emails, Facebook posts, tweets and messages to support its case for the injunction.

As a result, Mrs Williams said, social media was also being chilled by the terms of the order, even though the exchange of information was protected by law from interference by a public body.

She described how a person contacted a photographer who worked for INEOS and was referred by INEOS lawyers to the terms of the injunction.

“It was plainly intended to chill lawful, protected speech.”

Over-stated risk

Ms Williams said the company had indicated that it was in “possession of information indicating there was an immediate threat of serious personal injury or death to their own employees and others linked to INEOS from the activities of protesters.”

But INEOS had overstated the risk, she said, and had provided “exaggerated, tendentious and selective” evidence to justify the injunction.

“It did not in fact come near to bearing this out nor warranted the use of such sensationalist and emotive headlines”.

Ms Williams said the company had a legal duty to present information fairly at the private hearing when the injunction was first granted.

But it had “failed to distinguish between legitimate robust expression of opinion, which may have been insulting, with unlawful conduct. Behaviour described by INEOS as harassment was no more than abusive or irritating, she said.

There was no evidence to link INEOS’s cited examples of criminal damage to anti-fracking campaigners, she said. And the company had not provided examples of the many peaceful protests.

22 video clips, presented by the company, were, she said, presented as representative of six-and-a-half hours of material that the court had not had time to view. In one, the clip showed protesters shouting at security guards but this had followed an unseen incident in which a guard allegedly assaulted a protester.

The other challenger, Joe Corre, son of the fashion designer, Vivienne Westwood, is to make his case tomorrow (2/11/2017) on what is expected to be the final day of the hearing.

Reports from day 1 and day 3 of the injunction hearing

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

13 replies »

    • You mean the National Trust consistently refuse to be threatened by them Nick?

      Well done them! It’s good to see people unafraid to stand up for what they believe to be right and refusing to give in to threats isn’t it?

  1. It would be good to see an end to threats, lock ons and blockages of the road. All of these are criminal activities. The fact that these totally destroy local support doesnt seem to bother the anarchistic element. They are just up for a fight with authority.
    Threats and negative reviews of suppliers is also an unacceptable and illegal activity. The trouble is how many have been prosecuted? Very few. The threat of legal action under contempt rules would add force to the rule of law. We are very liberal with these matters and European police would view the policing at PNR and KM 8 with horror. They would just tear gas the lot!
    I am sure with the vast swathe of evidence that the protestors have given to INEOS will ensure that the injunction will continue.
    It will be great when the daft law that allows people to invade private land and set up a polluting ‘protection camp is changed. That is a total load of nonsense!

  2. “INEOS said the injunction does not outlaw anything which is not already illegal”. Sounds a pretty strong case. How many arrests have been made in recent times for illegal activities-none? Err, no, but hundreds. Have the protesting groups shown ability to control protest that they have encouraged and organised? Err, no.

  3. A pre-emptive injunction is in no way acceptable. If it is allowed to stand then there will be a rush of such things using this as a precedent. So, you might think fracking is great and therefore Ineos should be allowed this blanket injunction but you might find some of the others that this enables a bit less palatable? Think about it.

  4. The reason that direct action is being carried out up and down the country is because the ‘Authorities’ are not listening to the locals anywhere! The Protectors feel they have no choice. If there are ways to protest and protect effectively and stop these companies risking polluting our water, destroying our environment and local communities, then please let them know. I repeat the County Councils, the MP’s, the Government are ignoring their constituents, what are they supposed to do……put up and shut up? They cannot, their Humanity will not allow such behaviour.

  5. People are missing the fundamental legal implications of this case. This is bigger than fracking and people that value their civil liberties should be careful what they wish for. If granted, this could be used by other organisations for other issues. Despite what those that support fracking believe, the arrests have been mainly for obstruction of the highway and police. And please keep in mind the offence of obstruction of police does not necessarily mean physically obstructing a police officer, it can simply mean anything that he perceives makes it harder for him carry out his duty. This is why many cases when they have been heard in court have been dismissed. The action may inconvenience and annoy some people, and I do sympathise with people that are impacted, but this is the historic and recognised nature of peaceful direct action. These are minor offences. The police have stated the protests have not been violent. If we go down this route civil liberty is on a very slippery slope. Consider protesting to stop a local hospital closing and so forth. This has potentially far reaching implications.

  6. “The company had indicated that it was in “possession of information indicating there was an immediate threat of serious personal injury or death to their own employees and others linked to INEOS from the activities of protesters.”

    Er right – just like Cuadrilla who have been operating for nearly a year at Preston New Road – we have all seen how many of their staff have actually suffered serious personal injury or been killed haven’t we boys and girls? Yes that will be none.

    It would be nice to think that a judge will see this b/s for exactly what it is.

    Meanwhile the great British public are getting to see exactly how the frackers behave when they aren’t getting what they want. It won’t go do well for Ineos whatever the result tomorrow.

  7. KatT-if an injunction is upheld the same legal rights apply. The difference is that if a protestor acts illegally than the sanctions are related to contempt of court and are much more severe.
    The matter is simple. Find a way to protest legally, without breaking the law, or if you can’,t pay the consequences.

    The same people post on here regularly how they want to stop companies who legally go about their licenced and authorised business in an attempt to break them financially. They gloat how this will be to the detriment of investors. They want the exploration companies to pay the financial penalty of the protestors illegal actions. Only fair, morally, and I suspect legally, it should work both ways. I think the courts know that it is relatively easy to find individuals motivated enough to break the law if there is a good chance of no serious consequence. Equally, they know at some time they need to re-set the boundaries as the law breaking becomes more serious when exploration proceeds.

    Whilst I would suspect the injunction will be upheld, I have long given up speculating about legal machinations where ancient precedents can overcome common sense, so we will just have to wait and see.

    • No Martin. In this country we have a body of established law. People act within it and sometimes without it, be they companies , protesters or others. The consequences are known and generally considered proportionate.

      Ineos appear to think that they have found a way of changing this to their own advantage by changing the weight of the possible sanctions to their own advantage by using an injunction. Is this not an abuse of the law?

      Now, they may get their injunction – we won’t know until later today, but if they do they can kiss goodbye to any social licence and I predict that it will inflame the public when they get to realise what it really means – not just to this particular sphere but to civil rights and protest in general.

      It is clear from what happened at Grangemouth and their VAT trip to Switzerland that Ineos don’t give much of damn about public opinion, but that I think is a mistake.

      Watch this space ….

  8. Your “social licence” is to parade around a village, where young children are living and schooling, with a sign stating “frackers don’t piss on my head and tell me it is raining”? DOD obviously thought this worthy to present on Sept 23rd. I know some locals who were disgusted that they had to put up with self indulgent antisocial activity. Like you do most of the time you miss out the anti part-you are calling for an antisocial licence.

    I quite understand you don’t like anyone using the law to defend themselves, their staff and the locals who are independent of this “struggle”. But when the antis have repeatedly used the law to try and disturb and delay lawful activity it all seems perfectly fair. But, of course, fair is not the decision maker in this case.

Add a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s