Two campaigners who challenged the injunction by INEOS Shale against anti-fracking protests have vowed to continue their fight.
Joe Corre and Joe Boyd said they would lodge an appeal against last week’s High Court ruling which continued injunctions against unlawful interference by protesters in INEOS operations.
The judge, Mr Justice Morgan, removed one aspect of the injunction against harassment and changed the wording in some sections. But he rejected the calls for the injunction to be dismissed.
Under the ruling, people who obstruct the company’s activities could be jailed, fined or have their assets seized.
After the hearing, INEOS’s operation’s director, Tom Pickering, said:
“Our people have the right to go to work free from fear of violence and unlawful interference. These injunctions simply protect INEOS and our people from hardcore activists who game the system and treat the law with contempt. Crucially they also protect the rights of people to lawfully, peacefully protest.”
The campaigners have a fortnight to begin appeal proceedings. They reflect here on the outcome of the case so far and what should happen next.
I’m very bullish about two aspects of the judge’s ruling that need to be appealed.
The first is the human rights aspect of protest. The other is having persons unknown as defendants.
We now have two weeks to go back to court to work out on what level to appeal. The injunction, far from being stamped into law as they had hoped would happen on 12 September, is yet another interim injunction, not permanent as they would have wanted. What they set out to do as a company has absolutely failed and they have a huge PR issue on top of that.
There are still some major problems with the injunction that are to do with human and civil rights. These are the sections of the ruling that deal with slow walking in front of lorries, lock-on protests and plotting to damage INEOS by trespassing on land and building camps. Those issues have been further complicated by the judgement, not clarified.
People will get caught out and what INEOS will seek to do is to single out ringleaders. If people are arrested on the highway for an ordinary criminal offence they will have this other layer of threat on top.
The other important aspect that needs challenging is the fact that this injunction is against person’s unknown and that, on a personal level, they can put me down as a defendant in a case when they have no evidence against me. My legal team made a big deal of this.
If someone is going to be at risk of imprisonment for doing an action then that person needs to be aware that doing that action is going to potentially land them in trouble. If they’re not aware of it and it’s not criminal by law, then it makes the whole thing more confusing.
Getting this injunction for INEOS was an act of desperation, in my eyes.
The writing is now on the wall. In England we are surrounded by countries that have banned it or have moratoriums or restrictions in place: France, Scotland, Irish Republic, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The Conservatives are now isolated as the only major political party that supports this industry. Both of the other major political parties have said that they would ban it. The Conservatives are in a very weak position and the Labour Party now needs to step up and put their money where their mouth is and do something it.
INEOS knows that if the same kind of tactics are used against them that have been used against so successfully against Cuadrilla they are going to be walking through treacle to try and get this thing done. That’s why they brought this injunction in place.
I agree that this injunction is still an absolute full-frontal assault on our right to protest. But for me it is all going in the right direction.
So far, we’ve cut off a bit of one of their legs. Now we’re going to go back and deal with cutting off some of their arms and, in the end, I don’t think this injunction is going to look like very much at all.
I believe that bit by bit we will knock that back. And hopefully, by the time we’ve done that, the political landscape will have caught up a bit. We should have an announcement that the Welsh Assembly will move to ban fracking under the Wales Act. Hopefully the Labour Party and other political parties will now start to pressure Conservatives in marginal constituencies that are going to be affected by fracking to say what side of the fence they are on. There are quite a lot of Conservatives now who are extremely concerned about it. That’s why I think the whole situation is so fragile and that’s why I think that INEOS have acted in such a desperate way.
On the 12th of September we went to court for the initial hearing. INEOS had watered down the injunction a little bit by adding “fair and reasonable” terminology. The court gave us a three-day hearing and at that hearing we managed to remove a huge chunk of the injunction. This was the part that made it the widest injunction ever because INEOS had sought to threaten imprisonment against people who were posting on social media, communicating with their supply chain or talking to any of their employees in a way that they didn’t like.
The claim that this is the widest injunction ever has crumbled. In fact in many ways it looks pretty average.
If we hadn’t stood up, we would have had a test case in law where people could have been imprisoned for up to two years for writing something on social media that a company didn’t like.
The fact that a judge in the High Court can actually grant such an injunction at a secret court hearing is another aspect altogether.
The real problem is the fact that we have secret courts, supposedly set up to deal with issues of national security and terrorism, that are being used to effectively buy the law and smash our human rights. That’s a real issue behind all of this.
INEOS have kept the detail away from the public as much as they could by threatening anyone who wanted to have a look at the contents of this injunction and see how it affected them with legal costs.
I had to give my ID, my name and address to their lawyers under the threat of having to pay all these legal costs just to have a look at this injunction. As soon as they did that they put me down as a defendant. That was the way they have approached it: bullying everyone, trying to frighten everyone with these notices stuck up around their land, threatening everybody.
On 23 November, just over 17 months after a small majority of Britons voted to leave the European Union, the Swiss-based company, INEOS, received an extension of its injunctions against anti-fracking protests.
The draconian injunction had a few minor alterations from the one agreed at the earlier ex-parte hearing on 27 July. At the time, this was the widest injunction of its kind granted in a British court to stifle citizens’ attempts to establish the true meaning of ‘No social license’ and protect land in both intergenerational and intragenerational equitable terms.
Last week, we failed to overturn this injunction in the High Court, but we mustn’t stop there. Too much is at stake.
Isn’t this the type of attempt which those voting to leave the EU were hoping to avoid? British laws by foreign companies to block our future could turn out to be profoundly one of the most troubling decisions of our time. The renewed injunction allows for an unprecedented restriction on our fundamental rights, which has forever played an important part in political struggles.
Social and environmentally-minded figures at the top of the Green Party have collectively led the way politically, and must be commended for their determined work in opposing the injunction.
We are also seeing the Labour Party and Liberal Democrats realising this is a huge social and environmental issue. As the Labour Party moves away from the neoliberal direction of the past few decades, we can hope to see more of its members involved with these political and corporate struggles. Yet, citizens, campaigners, activists and guardians of this land need more support from them. We are certainly not seeing enough as we attempt to overturn this injunction or put a halt to these companies’ oppressive invasion. Even some Conservatives are now raising questions but until the right wing of the party shows its concerns at this Swiss takeover of our law the troubles will continue.
The day after the injunction was granted, corporate takeover went one step further in the name of national security.
INEOS, the largest of the shale gas companies, has applied to test drill at three sites in the East Midlands. With no decisions made by local councils, on two of them in reasonable time limit periods (their words, not mine) they will be asking the planning inspectorate to intervene.
With huge opposition to their plans to industrialise the area, some might think, that just maybe they are avoiding local democracy, just like they did when they went behind the peoples back and acquired an ex-parte injunction against ‘persons unknown’. The clues, to what might soon become a national security issue lie later in their statement: ‘these are nationally important issues being made at a local level’. If this actually turns out to be the case, and the government fast tracks these highly controversial plans, we can safely say, we are living in a totalitarian state.
All this attention and exposure of collusion was made possible by determined campaigners for over six years now.
The campaign must be allowed to continue in the same vein, which is why I call on people to question this attempt by INEOS to shut down functioning society’s aspirations. How many more injunctions will we see before a change to the economic ideology which favours big business? By then it could be all too late. These injunctions could be the start of slippery slope that will be remembered in decades ahead, as a dark time in our country. Will INEOS move back to Switzerland when a Labour Government takes control and Tory tax breaks for business are a thing of the past?
Dangerously their legacy could linger on long after the shale industry, by setting a precedent in UK law for other companies to ride roughshod over our way of life and fundamental rights to challenge injustices. Who will clear up the mess left by these tax evading companies who are now trying to deny the citizens from opposing? These questions are real and go to the heart of some of the biggest troubles of our times.
The injunction itself cannot and will not be left unchallenged. Joe Corre and I will be filing an application for permission to appeal. Like many before us who have endured many struggles to earn these rights, including two world wars, we must do the same. The support of everyone concerned with the future and direction of our country can support the case at: https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/fracking/
- Joe Boyd’s thoughts are an edited version of a longer article which can be read here (pdf)