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Ineos fracking protest injunction to be challenged at appeal court

Photo: Adela Redston

Two environmental campaigners who challenged Ineos’ injunction against shale gas protests have won the right to go to the Court of Appeal.

Joe Corre (left) and Joe Boyd. Photo: Ian Crane

Joe Corre (left) and Joe Boyd failed to block the injunction at a three-day hearing at the High Court in October and November 2017 (DrillOrDrop report). And in December 2017, the judge, Mr Justice Morgan, refused them permission to pursue their case (details)

But their application to the Court of Appeal has been successful. Mr Corre has been granted permission to pursue his case on one ground and Mr Boyd on three.

The campaigners had described the injunction has “unprecedented” and “draconian”. Their legal teams argued it was already having a “chilling effect” on the debate about fracking.

Since the hearing, UK Oil & Gas and Cuadrilla have applied for similar injunctions.

Mr Boyd said tonight:

“It is fantastic news, particularly as Cuadrilla is applying on many of the same grounds.

“This shows that it is not a strictly clear cut case as some of the industry’s legal teams are trying to make out.

“It is definitely a step in the right direction. It is a case of national importance.”

Referring to recently announced government proposals to take fracking decisions out of national control, he said:

“It will give everyone in the anti-fracking movement a boost at a time when the government is trying to override local democracy. It will give people their spirit back.”

He has been allowed to appeal on three of his six grounds. These are the Human Rights Act aspects of the case, the injunction on protests against the supply chain and the fact that the injunction was against person’s unknown.

In court papers issued today, Lady Justice Asplin said “There is a real prospect of success” on these three grounds. On the Human Rights Act, she said “It is arguable that the [High Court] Judge did not apply the correct test” or “conduct a proper analysis of the evidence”.

On the supply chain injunction, she said there was a “compelling reason why it should be heard on appeal”. She said it was “arguable that the judge erred in extending the scope of unlawful means conspiracy in the way he did”.

Mr Corre said tonight:

“It is very good news that we can present our case at the Court of Appeal. If we are successful it could have a domino effect against copy cat injunctions like those sought by UKOG and Cuadrilla.”

He was granted permission to appeal on one of his four grounds: against the “person’s unknown” aspect of the injunction.

On this ground, Lady Justice Asplin said:

“Having considered the authorities the Judge stated that the course was open to the Claimant/Respondents. It is arguable that the course was wrong in the light of reliance upon conduct of specific individuals and without consideration of the factors relevant to such an exceptional course.”

The injunction prohibited people from interfering with the lawful activities of Ineos staff and contractors. People who breached the order risked prison, fines or seizure of their assets.

The order prevented trespass and what was described as unlawful and unreasonable obstruction of the highway. This included slow walking, climbing on vehicles and lock-on protests or a combination of them.

At the High Court, Mr Justice Morgan rejected the campaigners’ arguments that the injunction was unnecessary and that INEOS had misled the court at a private hearing in July when the order was first granted.

He also dismissed the claim that the injunction would complicate the position of the police.

Ineos had claimed it faced “a real threat” of interference from protests. DrillOrDrop invited Ineos to comment on tonight’s development. This post will be updated with any response.