Legal

Court adjourns decision on “wide-ranging” injunction against protests at UKOG oil drilling sites

180319 UKOG injunction2

Campaigners outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London, 19 March 2018. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Five women campaigning against the oil industry in southern England have secured a delay to a wide-ranging injunction that sought to outlaw protests against an exploration company.

The High Court in London adjourned a case today brought by UK Oil and Gas, which aimed to restrict actions against its sites in West Sussex and Surrey.

UKOG had described the injunction as a “standard application” and asked the court to deal with it today. But a senior court official told the company:

“These are very wide-ranging orders to be served and they are exceptional orders.

“They have to be looked at extremely carefully.”

Chief Master Marsh adjourned the case for about six weeks when it will be heard by a High Court judge.

The campaign alliance, Weald Action Group, welcomed the outcome, saying it allowed local people to take stock without the threat of legal action against them.

Prohibition of lawful acts that intend to injure economic interests

The draft orders, issued earlier this month, sought to prohibit lawful acts by campaigners where the “predominant intention” was to injure UKOG’s “economic interests”.

 

 

If approved, the orders would prevent activities that breached the criminal law and some that did not. They would establish exclusion zones outside the sites at Broadford Bridge and Markwells Wood in West Sussex and Horse Hill in Surrey where campaign activity would be restricted. They would also prohibit people taking photographs of vehicles belonging to UKOG suppliers.

The orders have been challenged by five women from Sussex and Surrey. Four agreed to become named defendants in the case providing their exposure to UKOG’s costs was capped by the court. The fifth, also a named defendant, is seeking legal aid to fight the case.

Six other people, several of them local to sites where UKOG has an interest, told the court they wished to participate in the case.

One of them, Steve Ross Talbot, said:

“I have come to court to ensure that justice is done”.

Risk of fine or prison

The orders were originally made against “persons unknown”.

But the court heard that if anyone wanted to bring a challenge they would have to become a formal defendant in the case. This could open them to the risk of fines, prison or the seizure of assets if other people defied a future injunction.

Stephanie Harrison QC, representing Ann Stewart, Sue Jameson, Vicki Elcoate and Natasha Doane, said the order should never have been made.

UKOG should, she said, have identified in the draft orders any individuals who had committed unlawful activities listed in the injunction.

She accused UKOG of an “abuse of process”:

“Those who seek to defend lawful conduct, and have no intention of committing unlawful activity and have not done so in the past, have to take all the risk by being named in the procedures.

“This is, in effect, permitting the claimant to start proceedings without properly constituting a claim.”

“Deterred from protesting”

UKOG’s proposed injunction is similar to one granted to the shale gas company, INEOS Upstream.

Ms Harrison said:

“It is becoming the practice to bring procedures against persons unknown. There are going to be concerned individuals who feel that their ability to campaign against and participate in activities will be curtailed so they will be deterred from protesting.”

180319 UKOG injunction Constance Whiston

Constance Whiston, the fifth and youngest defendant outside the High Court, 19 March 2018. Photo: Weald Action Group

Stephen Simlett, for the fifth defendant, Constance Whiston, said:

“If you put your head above the parapet and want to say anything to the court you are exposing yourself to potential liability for damages and costs.”

He said the history of campaigns against UKOG went back several years. There was no evidence that the case should be heard urgently, he said.

Tim Polli, for UKOG, said:

“We take the view that this is a standard application.”

He said:

“It is difficult to see what they [the challengers] have to object to.”

Mr Polli said UKOG had not thought it appropriate to name individuals in the draft order. He said:

“The defendants have self-selected themselves. These are people who are regarded as appropriate defendants. This is the system working as it should.”

UKOG decided to seek an injunction after the occupation by protesters of the Horse Hill oil exploration site in Surrey at the end of November 2017, Mr Polli said.

“They [UKOG] genuinely fear that unlawful acts will be committed in the absence of an injunction.”

He said the company had installed 24-hour security at Horse Hill. It hoped that an injunction would make this unnecessary in future.

UKOG said in a statement last night:

“We do not want to prevent anyone exercising their rights to freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and the right to peaceful protest.

“This injunction is aimed at a small minority of activists who seek to deny our fundamental democratic and legal right to go about our lawful business.”

Consent and access problems at Markwells Wood

Asking for a month to prepare evidence, Ms Harrison said the three oil sites were all different and had to be treated separately.

One, at Markwells Wood, in the South Downs National Park, had no current planning permission and a breach of condition notice had been issued against UKOG, she said. The company no longer had access to the site for certain operations, the court heard.

“Good news”

After the hearing, Jane Mote, a spokesperson for Weald Action Watch, said

“This is very good news for us. It allows us to be able to take stock and deal with very complicated issues without any real threat of an injunction in place. That is just.

“It is good that the judge listened so carefully and thought through the very wide-ranging scope of this injunction and put a pause on it.

“I was pleased that he recognised there are human rights issues, which is what we have argued. More care needs to be taken with the law to stop it being used as a potential tool against lawful protest.

“These orders are so wide-ranging they allow a lot of people’s rights to be taken away and that is not just.

“It makes people feel afraid to have a view, it makes people afraid to take an action and, in a civil democratic society, that is unfair.”

180319 UKOG injunction Bianca Jagger and Joe Corre

Bianca Jagger with Joe Corre, who is appealing against the INEOS injunction, outside the High Court, 19 March 2018. Photo: Weald Action Group

Before the hearing, the human rights campaigner, Bianca Jagger, told campaigners gathered outside the court:

“I came here to say thank you for the effort you put in every day of your life.

“I believe that you deserve to be celebrated as human rights defenders. You should not be regarded as anything different from the people I support in the remote places of the world. You deserve as much respect and we should be grateful to you for defending our environment.”

More reaction

Brenda Pollack, Friends of the Earth south east England campaigner, said:

“This is great news for local residents, as well as the natural environment. People were shocked that such a development could even be considered inside one of our most precious landscapes.”

“Is it just a coincidence that UKOG’s attempt to use injunctions on anyone exercising their rights to peacefully protest against these developments, has come just as they’ve been told to clear this site?”

“We can’t afford to burn existing fossil-fuel reserves, let alone develop new sites, if we want to avoid the most damaging impacts of climate change.”

Keith Taylor MEP for south east England said today’s decision proved the importance of dedicated and passionate local residents and environmental campaigners:

“The High Court has today thrown a spanner in the works for UKOG and its attack on our human rights and freedom of expression. The firm’s desired injunction would have a chilling effect on the right to lawful protest and campaigning right across the South East. It was only just that the High Court recognised the draconian and wide-ranging bid was anything but ‘standard’ – as UKOG tried to claim.

“The decision to delay, however, means the fight against this chilling and anti-democratic injunction is not over. Residents and campaigners now have little over a month to prepare to take on the financial might of UKOG in the High Court to defend not just their civil liberties but those of all British people. I unreservedly offer them my wholehearted and continuing support.”

“There is nobody who cares about the health of British democracy and human rights who wouldn’t support the campaign against an injunction that seeks to criminalise thousands of South East residents. On my visits to drilling protests across the UK, I have met the warmest, most caring people one can imagine.”

“In a free and democratic country, a company’s economic interests should never supplant citizens’ fundamental human rights. UKOG’s injunction bid is not only practically unenforceable it is also anti-democratic. It presents an obvious and clear breach of the Human Rights Act. It will set a truly frightening precedent if it isn’t rejected out of hand.”

  • The decision on whether costs for four of the challengers should be capped will be decided at a hearing on 29 March at the High Court.

Reporting from the High Court hearing was made possible by individual donations from DrillOrDrop readers. You can contribute to independent reporting by  DrillOrDrop by clicking here

51 replies »

  1. “On my visits to drilling protests across the UK”.

    No wonder the Greens are losing votes.

    And, Mr. Taylor, is the bicycle able to continue?

    But, as Prof. Dieter Helm found that we could have reduced carbon dioxide emissions for far less than the £100billion already spent on renewables by encouraging a switch to gas, it might be overlooked. Don’t think so.

  2. Green fertile fields or polluted soil and water supplies. Survival or desert. Now who is acting responsibly?

  3. It’s good that this is being seen as a human rights issue, which it clearly is. Why are such decisions (such as the recent Ineos injunction) being taken by a Business Court, therefore?

  4. Never trust anyone who claims to represent ‘the silent majority’, such as GottaBKidding. That is the last refuge of anyone who knows they are losing the argument.
    Firstly, how can anyone really claim to be speaking for the silent majority, because by definition the have not made their feelings known? Secondly, all Government wave-tracker polls for years have shown that support for fracking is at about 16-17%. These are professional polls and are much more likely to be right than a pro-fracking contributor based in the USA.

  5. Go tell that to the people of Tanzania, Paula, and they might reply death or life.

    They are not too concerned about wealthy tourists who wish to visit their country wishing to see a quaint scene from the past. They wish to bring their country up to levels of agriculture experienced in the West, and then use the disposable income for what they wish, maybe keeping their children alive. Not just me ranting-I studied agriculture with students from that country.

    So, when you antis try and cost the operators at Horse Hill money by delaying tactics, take a look at where some of their other interests lie and recognise the damage you may be causing.

    For those who suggest they do research this subject I would be surprised if any of the antis knows what I am referring to. But the facts are there, if you want to find them.

    We all use oil based products Ellie-you do as well, so GBK was being pretty conservative regarding a majority. Fracking is nothing to with UKOG.

    • …the same Tanzania?
      ‘Five suspended senior executives of Tanzania’s national oil company were on Friday charged with corruption offences over alleged irregularities in the award of a survey contract to a U.S. firm.’ DAR ES SALAAM, March 16 (Reuters)

    • Again it is about the process Martin, that riles ppl up in comparison with conventional exploration.

      If ukog were so terrific they would go where they are wanted, like Tanzania, which has little other economy. It’s not ok to force the ukog narrative.

      Let’s not forget Martin that any stats provided by the industry are primarilly concerned with profit taking.

      The UK will have plenty of options if they broker a deal with Saudi…

      Tune to go smoke some weed (fenatyl laced is the craze) with your buddy Mr LENIN (commie) Gas.

  6. Shock news-there is corruption within African politics!! But of course to Sherwulfe the smoke and mirrors is more important than the infant mortality. Just maybe, the general population of Tanzania would like modern, efficient agriculture AND decent politics. Let’s leave it to Sherwulfe to tell them he has decided both doesn’t fit his agenda.

    • Shock news – there is corruption in British Politics. But of course Martin the oil fumes and plastics is more important than the birth defects of infants near fracking sites. Just maybe, the general population of the UK would like modern, plastic free food AND decent politics. Let’s leave it to Martin to tell them he has decided both cannot fit his agenda.

        • To quote from the above report:
          ‘The Cabinet Office’s 5-page response to the freedom of information request from Unearthed mainly hinges on the exemptions relating to ‘the formulation of government policy‘ and ‘commercial interests’.

          Though it concedes that there is a strong public interest argument in allowing the report to be published, the Cabinet Office said:

          “There is a real risk that if the withheld information were released, then despite the passage of time since the report was written, it could still have an adverse effect on commercial organisations’ engagement in the market.”’

          …..very interesting…… so release the report and the business investment runs away! Stop the con – I say release it!

          • Absolutely Sherwulfe, well said! And congratulations Unearthed for unearthing this report and revealing the governments attempts to conceal the truth about fracking.
            It’s about time we saw some of this “transparent” government we hear so much about but never quite get there in practice.

            Time for all the fracking worms to hatch out.

  7. Speaking of those with deluded triumphalist ideas of privilege and power (GBK – style) did anyone see C4’s exposé on Cambridge Analytica (tonight)? What a bombshell – for political manipulators on both sides of the Atlantic! It just shows how ruthlessness in pursuit of power can actually employ discrete means these days but it’s still about greed and the exercise of assumed privilege. ‘Truth’ becomes a tool to be bent in whatever way is needed to serve the power mongers and the profiteers. What they can’t stand is the real truth – and hence exposure.

    • Truth is now based on who defined it. Right now there is a group of billionaires defining truth.. in fact they are busy re-defining lots of words have you noticed? The latest is “political” along with racism, tolerance and peace. I don’t like or approve of these redefinitions because they skirt the law and abuse human rights. If power were the objective, there would be mass effort to grab power away from the billionaires (like Soros who is no doubt funding the opposition Martin). But hey he wants you to live weed. A happy drugged out UK is easier to force his truths to. Don’t watch the news….

      • I’d like to add that the taquiya practice of truth redefinition also sits with the oil industry when they ‘redefibed’ the definition of fracking, thereby saying they aren’t….when they are. Sneakly lying &(*!

    • Also.. I will say that the issue with exposure is about the power to reach people. The people funding the attack on social media and Cambridge analytics are those who already control the worlds standard information sources: news, tv, magazines,, art, entertainment, academia, press oversight & journalist training. They just want more power. THOSE are the people who abuse others because they megaphone the truths they ‘create’ at the source.

      If an attack reigned out on Soros via the energy industry..I’d support the industry. The greatist evil is total mibd control.

  8. This action by UKOG threatens our basic human rights and attempts to redefine democracy. More – many more – defendants could be useful here and for any future actions!

  9. “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie.”

    Joseph Goebbels On the “Big Lie”

    The Cambridge Analytica manipulation of Big Data issue was revealed by some of the independent you tubers during the USA elections and was also connected to David Cameron’s failed brexit machinations which led to his governments tottering collapse into farce and his resignation. That continues today with Teresa May seemingly little more than the sour face of deeper agendas.

    The manipulation of media amounts to “media weaponisation” for purposes other than the furtherance of the democratic process.

    In other words nothing is what it seems on the surface. The best way to deal with that is to question everything, particularly simplistic stick waving and corporate and political declared agendas.

    I think that the entire weaponisation and machination process of issues backfires alarmingly, since trust in any business or official process simply vanishes and is inevitably replaced with suspicion and disbelief.

    What the fracking debacle has revealed is that the entire system is deeply compromised and we trust such simplistic false frack attacks on our very democratic existence at our ultimate peril.

    Question everything, trust only those who actually present and display care and concern for everyone and everything.

    Treat the world as a gift to be respected, not a resource to be exploited, and you can’t go far wrong.

  10. Well hi there Cindy. How ya all doing in the good old USA?

    Sorry, couldn’t resist it-although, unlike some, I have no prejudice about anyone posting from other countries.

    But, I did enjoy your humour about UKOG and profit!

    If they were making profit this discussion would not be going on. Because they are an exploration company they are not making a profit currently, which is why the antis feel they can delay and upset their operations to cost them enough money that they will pack up. Therefore, in response, they apply for an injunction to block that. Perhaps, if they were profitable they would take another course of action?

    Meanwhile, the oil under the south coast of UK continues to be pumped up and processed alongside the oil from Saudi, and my arthritic dog is able to play with his doggy pals thanks to his natural remedy. But, there have to be demons.

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