Legal

Oil company withdraws key clauses in protest injunction

180319 UKOG injunction2

Campaigners against the UKOG injunction outside the High Court, 19 March 2018. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Opponents of oil drilling in southern England have claimed victory after an exploration company dropped what they described as “the most draconian” clause in an injunction against protests.

UK Oil & Gas (UKOG) is no longer asking the High Court to outlaw campaigners “combining together using lawful means where the predominant intention is to injure the claimant’s economic interests”.

Opposition groups had said this clause was an unenforceable attempt to stifle opposition and sought to prevent typical campaign activity.

UKOG said this afternoon it had listened to concerns of communities in the areas affected by the injunction and narrowed its scope. It said it was not trying to silence lawful protest and was asking for protection solely from what it called unlawful activity. (UKOG statement for full comment).

Lorraine Inglis, for the campaign organisation, Weald Action Group, said today:

“UKOG have climbed down on the most draconian clause of an injunction they propose to bring against ‘persons unknown’ who might seek to oppose their oil exploration activities in Sussex and Surrey.

“This is a victory for democracy. No way should a company’s economic interests trump human rights.”

The latest draft order, seen by DrillOrDrop, has also removed Markwells Wood in the South Downs from the list of four sites in southern England named in the injunction. The company now seeks to apply the order to exploration sites at Broadford Bridge in West Sussex and Horse Hill in Surrey and the UKOG headquarters in Guildford.

There is no reference in the new order to exclusion zones outside the site entrances, where previous versions had said campaigning would be restricted. It appears that the company is now seeking to prohibit entry to the sites alone and not the land or road outside.

A clause in the previous order has also been removed which sought to prevent “intentionally photographing or filming the protected persons with the purposes of identifying them and/or targeting them in connection with the campaign”. The latest version does, however, introduce a new ban on “watching” the claimants.

The proposed injunction was brought by UKOG and four related or partner companies against “persons unknown” last month (March 2018). When the case went to the High Court (DrillOrDrop report), five local women said they wanted to challenge the order. The hearing was postponed to a future date for the challengers to prepare their case .

Markwells Wood

Markwells Wood 6 Ann Stewart

UKOG’s Markwells Wood site in the South Downs National Park. Photo: Markwells Wood Watch

UKOG’s solicitors confirmed in correspondence that the Markwells Wood site had been removed from the injunction, saying:

“The reason for this is that operationally it has ceased to be of importance”.

Last month, DrillOrDrop reported that UKOG had lost its right of access to the site in July 2017 when landowners withdrew from an agreement with the company.

We also reported recently that the South Downs National Park Authority had issued a Breach of Condition Notice requiring the Markwells Wood site to be restored within six months.

There has been no planning permission for the site since September 2016. UKOG withdrew a new application for more drilling and production in May 2017 after objections from the Environment Agency and Portsmouth Water.

Last week, the company told investors it does not believe the Breach of Condition Notice was valid (DrillOrDrop report, see Other plans – “batch applications”)

Emily Mott, of the local residents’ group, Markwells Wood Watch, said:

“UKOG’s lack of candour is troubling. UKOG is fully aware that they are in breach of contract to restore Markwells Wood. Furthermore, they have known since July 2017 that their access to the site was denied.

“Markwells Wood Watch will continue to campaign across the Weald for the protection of our environment against the fossil fuel industry. We call upon UKOG to restore Markwells Wood and leave our community in peace.”

Locking-on

The revised draft order has added new clauses, including a variation of the campaign technique of “locking-on”.

The new order prohibits protesters “attaching themselves to equipment belonging to or in the possession of the claimants”. It also seeks to prevent protesters attaching themselves to equipment on the sites or being conveyed to or from the them.

Campaigners against the onshore oil and gas industry have previously secured themselves to fencing and delivery vehicles.

UKOG has also inserted a new clause preventing people from “interfering with the claimant(s) economic interests” by the commission of unlawful acts.

“Slow walking”

Horse Hill Protests

“Slow walking” protest in February 2016 outside the Horse Hill site, in Surrey, one of three sites now named in the injunction order. Photo: David Burr/Alamy Live News

The revised order has also retained previous clauses. These include the often-used tactic of “slow walking” in front of lorries delivering to and from sites. Some police forces have facilitated slow walking at anti-fracking or anti-drilling protests and some protesters who have used this technique have been acquitted by the courts.

Lorraine Inglis, of Weald Action Group, said:

“The revised draft still retains many elements that would severely restrict our right to legitimate protest – attempting to control activities on public highways and suggesting we are not even allowed to ‘watch’ the activities of the company and its suppliers. We shall continue to challenge them every step of the way.

“We’re fighting to protect our countryside and our environment – we can’t let what we feel are bullying tactics stifle our legitimate protest. This injunction, if granted, would mean severe curtailment of our right to protest and defend our environment.”

Other outlawed actions that remain in the order include criminal damage, removing equipment, blocking the highway, entering or remaining on sites, intimidation, assault, obstructing the highway or access to sites and interfering with motor vehicles.

UKOG statement

A spokesperson for UKOG told DrillOrDrop this afternoon:

“The injunction seeks affirmation from the High Court that it is our legal and democratic right to conduct lawful business without unlawful hindrance from those who oppose us. We would like to reiterate that we do not seek to silence lawful protest – it is solely unlawful activity that we are asking the court to give us protection from. The injunction, if granted, will therefore not affect peaceful protest such as “cake at the gate”. It will affect only those persons who decide to slow walk, lorry surf, obstruct the public highway, intimidate and threaten our staff or trespass on our private land.

“We have agreed to a cost capping order showing that we are not trying to stifle our opponents voice. We believe strongly in the rule of law and the democratic process. Agreeing not to pursue the defendants for costs is proof of that.

“Contrary to the provocative comments made by Keith Taylor MEP, we are not a corporate bully. We listen to the communities in which we operate and accordingly have narrowed the scope of the order having listened to their concerns.

“Anyone going about their lawful business will emphatically not be affected by this order.”

Court challenge

Weald Action Group said it would continue to challenge UKOG’s injunction when the case returned to the High Court later in the year. The group plans to launch a Crowd Justice appeal to support the legal challenge.

The challengers are represented by Stephanie Harrison QC and Simon Simblet, instructed by Michael Oswald, of Bhatt Murphy solicitors.

180405 HH Keith Taylor visit UWOC6

Keith Taylor MEP (Second left) outside the Horse Hill site, 5 April 2018. Photo: Used with the owner’s consent

The Green Party MEP, Keith Taylor told anti-drilling campaigners this afternoon in Surrey:

“I am pleased to say UKOG are obviously feeling the pressure as they’ve changed the terms of the injunction – they’ve backed down and acknowledged they were on shaky ground so they have left out the outrageous clause seeking to prohibit lawful means of protest’

“Just because they have got loads and loads of money doesn’t mean to say they are doing the right thing – they are doing the right thing for their shareholders and communities like yours are actually paying the price and that is not acceptable And that’s why we need to increase our activity challenging their plans as is fit for a free and democratic country

“A company’s economic rights should never rule us or replace citizen’s fundamental human rights

“I thank you all for being so wonderful and putting your lives on hold to come down here to protest and I look forward to coming back in a few month’s time to celebrate the refusal of this injunction.”

 

26 replies »

  1. Martin , you do make me laugh , I try to imagine that you believe what you say here . UKOG had no access to MW since last summer and yet continued to tell investors that all was ok . Even when it was reported here investors were lied to . Even in the UKOG yearly report it said a new application was being made . How can anyone throw their money at a company that can’t tell you the truth ? Let’s face it , all the problems at Broadford Bridge were reported in DrillorDrop way before the company RNS. I read with interest the chat on LSE boards where DrillorDrop is said to be a biased Swampy blog , obviously that must mean that the truth is only coming from one side and it isn’t UKOG.

    • Good comments Jono, thanks.
      We often hear of “oh, it’s only exploration, nothing to worry about?”
      This is fracking farmhouse video on the concept of fracking by stealth. Subsequent applications to the exploration permission, then up the anti…..interesting expression…..until it is full blown production.

      ( https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=9BrO88e_psU )

      So when we see that brush off “oh its only exploration” expression again, we will know that it is really fracking by stealth, and was never just exploration?

      As always Enjoy Enjoy!

      • Also here is todays video from Ian R Crane, who draws the parallels between the tree culling across the country, particularly in Sheffield, and the growing realisation of the 4g/5g roll out connection.

        This is because trees prevent 4g/5g operating properly, answer? Cut all the trees down?

        Look at your own locations and ask if there is such a gross attack on trees in your own location?

        The Salisbury poisoning official cover up debacle and the fracking issue displays the same disinformation and alarmingly simplistic excuses to ramp up the anti Russian propaganda machine.

        Such efforts are always a distraction from other more damaging issues becoming discussed, so they are drowned out by such as the anti Russian rhetoric or WMD”s or the Falklands, or whatever is on the agenda books…..

        It seems on all those fronts, and others, that planted detractors are trying to cripple (Skripal?) any debate, and crush opposition by preventing issues even being openly discussed. We have seem such reframing attempts right here.

        So perhaps treat such attempts with the same suspicion and show that we all ready know it for what it is. Censorship attempts by the back door.

        ( https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=em-lbcastemail&v=ZFrT5UhOW_I )

        It relates precisely to the wider implications to health and freedom from pollution, be it from fracking chemicals, electromagnetic assault, deterioration and attack on health, or the growing teen suicide and dementia plague.

        Why do you think mental health is suddenly such a declared major issue? Is it because that certain agencies are well aware that mental processes are severely damaged by electromagnetic, chemical and environmental……issues resulting from the corporate dash for technology that kills and profit at any price? Make up your own mind, while you still have one, on that and perhaps do some of your own research.

        We are under attack from all quarters it seems.

        The best way to handle that I think is to see each issue, such as fracking, as an indication of the wider situation.

        We have all ready seen how public knowledge of the truth, above all the officially sanctioned lies and obfuscations, are part of the realisation of the blatant outright lies we are surrounded by.

        And that it is possible to defeated such attempts at each turn.

        So perhaps here we keep opposing fracking, but also appreciate there are much more varied attempts to enslave us into willing, or unwilling cash cows ripe for exploitation and or slaughter?

        So keep your eye on the fracking balls, but perhaps also a weather eye on these other issues. They are all part of the same many headed assault, weaken fracking and the others become just as unstable and transparent because they are all related.
        Interesting times we live in? We now see that a society simply and exclusively concerned only with personal gain, greed and money and profit, ultimately opens it’s own abattoir doors to self extermination.

        And there are plenty of predators out there sharpening their knives ready for the slaughter.

        So what are this government really afraid of you noticing and discussing?

        Perhaps look at the implications of the Telford child abuse scandal, the collapsing fracking debacle, and the French/UK military and intelligence fusion cover up.
        That brings to light the total lie of the present brexit negotiations’.
        When we are already deeply committed to fusion with the French military, and hence the EU, combined armed forces, and the blatant and pernicious slow crippling and destruction of our own armed forces.
        That totally negates any brexit negotiations becoming even remotely possible to finalise at anytime?

        You may ask yourself how did this insane situation come about? Perhaps we just took our eye off the government and corporate ball for too long, and allowed our illusions of democratic autonomy to disguise the fact that it could all be turned against us if we forgot to keep vigilant and look for trends?

        Still, awake is awake, red pills or blue pills, they both need to be taken with clean water.

  2. Err-why did they need access Jono? They were busy doing things elsewhere, which would determine where their focus would be directed. Until that work determined that, and the full data from BB is still to be analysed, why would they have any desire to change their position regarding MW?
    If you investigated, you would have seen that other sites were being identified utilising data from HH and then BB, and that they were focusing upon some sites but not on others eg. IOW.
    You don’t need to look very far (even LSE boards) to find many investors have been pretty keen for UKOG to focus upon key targets rather than the previous (apparent) lack of focus. Well, they seem to have come to that same conclusion, and having done so, then will get on with re-instating MW.

    Nice that I am providing you with some amusement. You seem to require some cheering up regarding UKOG. Trust the experience was not too costly.

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