Cuadrilla injunction evidence based on “allegations, conjecture, exaggeration and hearsay”, court told

180628 Block around the clock11 RCTP

Block Around the Clock outside Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road shale gas site, 28/6/2018. Photo: Reclaim the Power

The shale gas company, Cuadrilla, was accused at the High Court today of trying to “demonise” anti-fracking protester to support its case for an injunction.

Campaigner, Bob Dennett, told a hearing in Manchester that evidence from one of the company’s witnesses was:

“largely just allegations, conjecture, exaggeration, hearsay and rumour and, in some instances, outright lies.”

Mr Dennett, along with Ian Crane, were challenging the injunction against a range of protest tactics, including slow walking, obstructing the highway, lorry surfing and lock-ons.

Cuadrilla said a temporary injunction, granted by Judge Mark Pelling QC on 1 June 2018, did not prevent lawful peaceful protest at the Preston New Road shale gas site.

But the two challengers said the order was already having a chilling effect on protest and breached human rights to freedom of expression and assembly.

Cuadrilla is seeking to continue the injunction until June 2020.

Earlier in the summer, the company said it faced “an imminent threat” from Block Around the Clock, a three-day protest promoted by the campaign group, Reclaim the Power.

Tom Roscoe, for the company, said today:

“The end of that campaign does not mean that the imminent threat of unlawful conduct has ended.”

There were many key future milestones in work at Preston New Road, including the start of fracking, he said.

[Without the injunction] “protesters will seek to disrupt, delay or prevent the attainment of those milestones by the same sorts of unlawful acts which have been deployed in the past.”

Judge Pelling is expected to give his ruling after 2pm tomorrow (Wednesday 11 July 2018).

180628 Block around the clock6 RCTP

Block Around the Clock outside Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road shale gas site, 28/6/2018. Photo: Reclaim the Power

Challenge to evidence

During today’s hearing, Cuadrilla showed montages of short video clips of protests at and near Preston New Road.

Mr Dennett, who represented himself, said the clips were “selective”, “out of context” and “edited to support the company’s case”.

One 20-second extract related to a vehicle windscreen being smashed. A protester was said to have allegedly used a chain wrapped round his fist and was later convicted of criminal damage. But Mr Dennett said new video evidence showed that the chain was being held by a security guard and the protester’s lawyers were now seeking to overturn the conviction. Mr Dennett said:

“If you see the full video, the protester did not break that windscreen. He didn’t have the chain in his hand.”

Referring to another videoed incident, a Cuadrilla witness statement said protesters refused to let farmworkers enter the premises of the owner of the fracking site and made false allegations that the workers drove at them. Mr Dennett said he was at that protest, which had been facilitated by police. He said he witnessed a woman protester knocked to the ground after she was hit by a 4×4.

In total, Mr Dennett reviewed more than 20 statements used by Cuadrilla in support of the injunction. Many were in witness statements by the company’s Head of Business Resilience, James Dobson.

The court heard that Mr Dobson said Cuadrilla, its employees, contractors and suppliers had been subjected to “daily acts” of direct action protest. This was an exaggeration, Mr Dennett said.

Mr Dennett said it was also an exaggeration, if not untrue, for Mr Dobson to say that incidents were sometimes violent. Mr Dennett quoted police evidence that protesters shouted and swore at times but had not been violent.

Mr Dennett urged the court to dismiss Mr Dobson’s statement that two known anti-fracking protesters had been identified outside the depot where a rig belonging to Cuadrilla had been seriously vandalised. The statement acknowledged that the police had insufficient evidence to secure a successful prosecution. Mr Dennett said there was no evidence that the protesters entered the premises.

He also said there was no evidence to support a letter from the local Chamber of Commerce that small companies were going out of business because of the protests.

Judge Pelling asked him:

“Why would the Chamber of Commerce seek to mislead me? They are reporting what they have been told”.

Mr Dennett replied:

“They are not seeking to mislead. I am saying there is no evidence that I am aware of.”

The judge pointed to letters from companies supporting Cuadrilla’s case.

Mr Dennett said many businesses had supported the protests and some had resigned from the Chamber of Commerce over its backing for the fracking industry.

Cuadrilla had also quoted a newspaper article which accused anti-fracking campaigners of making unnecessary 999 ambulance calls. Mr Dennett said:

“None of these calls were malicious.”

He said he made one call when his son was injured by a police officer and then refused hospital treatment.

“The claimant has picked up on this and tried to use it as evidence for their injunction to demonise the protesters.”

“Successful injunction”

180628 Block around the clock5 RCTP

Block Around the Clock outside Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road shale gas site, 28/6/2018. Photo: Reclaim the Power

Cuadrilla argued that the June 2018 injunction order had been successful because the number of police officers attending the Preston New Road protests had fallen and there had been no arrests.

Tom Roscoe, for the company, said:

“There has been no trespass to the PNR land, no obstruction of personnel or vehicle movements to and from the PNR site and no unlawful interference with its supply chain.”

He said what he called the “good order” at the site had allowed the police to reduce the number of officers by about 50%.

“From the perspective of peaceful, law-abiding protesters there has been no diminution in their ability to assemble outside the PNR site and have their voices heard there.

“The six week period of calm, peaceful and lawful protest is in marked contrast to the previous experience.

“The claimants are optimistic that a continuation of the injunction will lead to a continuance of this state of affairs, which balances protesters’ rights and concerns with the claimants’ own rights and interests.”

Mr Dennett said evidence showed that police numbers had begun to fall in March 2018, before the injunction. He said:

“All the [protest] actions planned for June were carried out, including Block Around the Clock.

“It is my contention that there were no arrests in June because the claimants [Cuadrilla] did not put themselves in a position where actions planned for June would cause them disruption.”

He added that there had also been no arrests in December 2017.

Cuadrilla said the injunction was not restricting protest because there had been increased numbers at a regular Wednesday Women in White protest. Mr Dennett said the numbers at this protest had increased because it was specifically excluded from the injunction. People were unwilling to take part in other protests because they were unsure whether they would be affected by the injunction, he said.

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Extra fencing outside the Cuadrilla Preston New Road site during the Block Around the Clock protest. Photo: Reclaim the Power

“Injunction should be dismissed”

The other challenger, Ian Crane, also representing himself, said:

“Cuadrilla is seeking unprecedented wide-ranging relief covering an exhaustive list of ‘offences’ and alleged ‘unlawful acts’.

“If granted it takes the regulation of freedom of expression and association into a whole new area with severe wide-ranging restrictions”.

He said Cuadrilla’s application was misplaced and should be dismissed.

“There has been no attempt to qq an analysis of actual loss or damage. The imminent threat of Reclaim the Power’s [June 2018] protest has passed. Right now there is no direct or perceived threat to Preston New Road.

“On the basis of the past 12 months, we have not seen an excessive amount of activity that requires injunctive relief.”

Mr Crane said the injunction undermined what he said was the basis of democracy. People protested to raise awareness of the negative impacts of fracking, he said.

“If there is to be no opportunity to express concern, beyond standing on the side of street waving a banner without the penalty of losing assets or liberty, this should be put before parliament. It should not be put before a civil court.

“It is an abuse of process using limited evidence based primarily on social media, newspaper articles and conjecture.”

He added that the ruling in this case would become a precedent as the shale gas industry proceeded elsewhere in the country. Mr Roscoe urged the court to dismiss much of Mr Crane’s evidence.

The case was adjourned until 2pm tomorrow (Wednesday 11 July).

  • Judge Pelling refused to admit as evidence a letter from Friends of the Earth. Two campaigners who had previously been part of the case did not give evidence because they could not raise enough money to be represented.

Reporting on this case was made possible by donations from individual DrillOrDrop readers.

25 replies »

  1. I live near the Cuadrilla PNR site and local residents were dreading this Summers influx of protesters coming in from out of the area.

    The previous year saw out of town protesters causing traffic chaos on such a major route between Blackpool and Preston. The tactics these protesters used blocking a blue light route and ringing for ambulances that were for fake injuries put local residents lives at risk.

    Since the injunction was put in place there has been no travel disruption to local residents and I have seen a minimal presence of police in the area allowing them to be better used and costing the tax payer a lot less.

    Even with the injunction it is a regular sight to see a protester standing in the middle of the road walking backwards and forwards at great danger to themselves and others, it will only be a matter of time before this kind of behaviour causes an injury or death.

    Jonathan Bartley the Green Party co leader was at the site recently and has not reported his findings on site but chooses to scare monger on safety to the area. An area which already has safety plans in place for British Nuclear fuels and British Aerospace industry.

    So Bob & Ian want to lift the injunction so activities like slow walking, obstructing the highway, lorry surfing and lock-ons can recommence???

    How far has Bob Dennett dropped to align himself with Ian Crane a conspiracy theory activist. Bob was once standing for the green party at election but now finds himself shoulder to shoulder with someone who stated a false flag incident would occur at the British Olympics involving fake aliens and a new world order?

    The Fylde Coast voted Conservative by a long margin and even reduced its vote for the green party under Tina rothery. It was firmly in the manifesto by the Conservatives that shale gas extraction would happen when going to the polls.

    Respect the will of the people

    The Fylde Coast voted YES to shale gas…

    • Kisheny. Jonathan Bartley, co leader of the Green Party did indeed visit the site. The previous day he spent over an hour at the gates collecting questions from concerned anti frackers. These questions were written down on separate cards for Mr Bartley to present to Cuadrilla. The following day he and his sound recording man entered the site and was given a guided tour. He was told the questions would be answered by Cuadrilla. Several weeks later we have still had no answers.
      The equipment used by the gentleman who recorded the visit was highly conspicuous. Headphones and a large microphone. Cuadrilla were well aware the visit was being recorded. When he returned from the site, Mr Bartley gave us a description of what had taken place and said the recordings would be transcribed later. Kisheny says that Mr Bartley has not reported on his visit to the site. The reason for that is that a few days later Cuadrilla sent him a request NOT to publish the recordings and so far, to my knowledge, he has not done so. Cuadrilla were well aware the visit was being recorded, it was not some hidden microphone that was used. Yet they request that the findings are not revealed. It is not Mr Bartley who is being evasive.

    • Kisheny, you are just repeating industry and establishment propaganda!

      Turning the Fylde and surrounding areas into the Largest Gasfield in Europe for a couple of decades will permanently destroy our established tourism and agriculture based industries for ever!

      Residents like you and I will have our road network destroyed by tens of thousands of hgv lorry journeys!

      Our health will be destroyed by unmonitored toxic emissions, variable wind conditions preventing the environment agency efficiently calculating the amount of airborne toxic chemicals being spread around by constant multiple flaring!

      If as you claim, [edited by moderator], the Fylde Coast voted yes to shale gas, we need to build many more hospitals in our area very quickly!

      I also suspect that the swarms of earthquakes experienced elsewhere in mature fracking locations will stop Cuadrilla and their like in their tracks losing their backers a fortune and their mouthpieces like yourself all respect amongst their families and friends!

    • As a real local resident ( one that lives and works in the area not one that claims to live in the area but then claims to work off shore and out of the country all the time)I call BS on the claim Fylde voted for fracking.

      The last election was fought on a Bresh!t ticket. The Tory government have dropped other manifesto pledges faster than a hot potato when it has suited their ideologically (read grasping) beliefs.

      And it’s an oldy but a goody but the saying you could pin a blue rosette on a pig and the People would would vote for it has always been a true on the Fylde.

      Kishney fast catching up Martin in the fantasists sweepstakes.

      • I live in Kirkham down the road from the site thank you Crem. There is no anti sentiment here. If there was true feelings against shale gas in this area surely the green party would have picked up support at last years election.

        In fact the green party lost more votes! Dropping from 3.2% to 2.7% of the vote…

        • funny because I live there too, and there is loads of anti sentiment. Again I call BS on your statement as its clearly tainted by your involvement in the O&G industry. I suggest removing your industry blinkers for a change or do you need them to run against Martin in the Fantasist Sweepstake?

        • One of the most ardent anti frackers happens to be a Kirkham town Councillor so there must be quite a lot of anti-sentiment in Kirkham.

      • Crembrule
        What would you consider being a real resident to be?
        Live in the area and work in the area ( say within 20 miles ) real?
        Live in the area and commute over 20 miles not real?
        Live in the area and work offshore 2 on 3 off, or abroad 4 on 4 off .. not real?

        Just checking as lots of Workers in the oil industry, lorry drivers et al could be termed as …. not real.

        Or protestors who do not live locally … not real?
        Protestors who live locally but work away ( or commute) …. not real?
        Only protestors who live and work locally ….real?
        A slippery slope.

  2. Nothing in this article leads me to feel optimistic about a just outcome. I fear that we are to become a police state, ran by the police for the benefit of those with the power to waive influence. What really annoys me is that our courts appear to be prepared to take unprecedented steps in order to appease companies that pay zero tax and are simply a burden on the communities in which they operate. Allegations should not be permitted in any courtroom!! In order to drag us off the course of democracy at least these leach’s should be forced to produce actual evidence to support their claims.

  3. Morning Ron, I totally agree with you.

    The fracking process and it’s proven awful effects on established Communities elsewhere should be the matter under the microscope.

    Confusing the issue with the manner in which Communities express their Human Rights to protect themselves is all part of the Industry and Establishment scheme!

    The fracking process is corrupt from start to finish, bribing their way into communities to start and leaving an unmonitored toxic legacy when they depart.

    • This report from Unearthed us interesting regarding corporations like ineos ukog et al using firms to trawl through social media to provide “evidence” of “opposition”.

      One might speculate if those same agencies also “salt” those very same posts themselves?
      Judging from past “evidence” produced in civil injunction courts, that would fit the unenviable corporation “profile”.

      • Those hired agencies also of course explains the “poisoning the dog” fabricated episode and the “vandalising the rig” fabricated episode, pure fantasy by hired fantasists and are utterly discredited and devoid of any evidence in fact.

        Clearly there are many more corporately “hired fantasist agencies” creating mischief to achieve their patently false claims.

        Let us see what “fog” and personal attacks emerge from that?

        • So death threats to the farmer who is leasing the land to Cuadrilla is O.K?

          This is the very real nasty side of the anti brigade in the area, no fantasy…

          The Police presence at the farmers house round the clock is a visual reminder of how far certain militant antis will push this issue.

          I live in the area and see this protection in place for the farmer. Please feel free to drive past the house and see for yourself…

          • Please provide proof of those accusations and pass them to the police, otherwise it is just somewhat unsubstantiated unverified and totally biased hearsay isn’t it.

            In fact it sounds much like another unsubstantiated fabricated fantasy episode such as “poisoning the dog” or “vandalising the rig” doesn’t it?

            Mere fear smear.

            Nice and convenient food for that ravenous beast, the In Junk Sham to feed upon though isn’t it?

            Far too convenient in fact, since protesters would simply not do any such thing because at least they have some moral integrity which is why they protest at all.

            Just normal everyday folk trying to stand up to invasion and corporate bullying, a rare and brave attribute in these morally and ethically compromised dark days.

            Protesters have no need or want to sink so low as to perjure themselves in such a way, that takes a different mindset altogether?

            Many peaceful David’s forced to stand against against the overgrown teetering bellowing corporate Goliaths.
            It only takes one quiet well placed stone of truth and it’s game over for the bellowed challenges of the over confident over polished armoured giant shale fail dale desecrators.

            The operators and their dirt delving “agents” however have proved time and time again to be not nearly so “accurate with the truth” of events and have openly excluded any evidence that contradicts such “evidential” support such as they are, for their hearsay claims.

            Videos are carefully edited out, such as the chain around the “security” agents wrist. Events are edited out and taken out of context, outright fabrications and hearsay are thrown around in the disguised place of “facts”. One could ask how they sleep at night?

            In fact anyone analysing the so called “evidence” given enough time for access would tear the whole case to shreds, which is why such ” evidence” is invariably submitted at the last possible moment, or submitted within the proceedings.

            Such deliberately timed “submissions” should lead to an immediate recess or postponement for such “evidence” to be examined and the truth obtained. Anything else is surely grounds for overturning the case.

            It doesn’t take long to perceive the pattern in all these social media ” claims” and it is very easy to fabricate such things, perhaps through various hired “agencies” posting whatever is required by means of stealth.

            Social media should not be grounds for such an important cases as are being brought with alarming regularity.

            For a while now, I have wondered about the underlying motivations of the activities of certain pressure groups and how they have fitted the desired pattern requirement to demonise peaceful protest.

            I have said this before and I still wonder at the resulting negative effects such action has taken and the opportunity that gives to the operators to force through these injunctions.

            I have no doubt of the honesty and voracity and integrity of the individuals at ground level.

            However I do doubt what the underlying hidden motivation is, and where it comes from and who funds it, and how much unnecessary and convenient ammunition those actions provide for the In Junk Sham procedures?

            False flags abound in conflicts everywhere today, it is always interesting to consider these things in the light of such events and wonder, just who is being manipulated here, and why and by whom?

            Strange days indeed?

      • Phil C
        One may speculate, either way. But if evidence is put in the public domain, then trawling for it is no crime.
        Indeed, good of Ian Crane to provide so much of the evidence used by INEOS via live streaming et al.

  4. Ahh crembrule is back.

    [Edited by moderator]

    Meanwhile, Cuadrilla continue (relatively) unhindered to prepare for fracking tests, the police are able to get back (largely) to important stuff (like looking after Mr. Trump) and oil prices together with gas wholesale prices keep on rising. All pretty factual crembrule.

    So, what do you think will happen if Cuadrilla’s tests are successful this time? Two thirds haven’t accepted the antis arguments so far (fact), so what kind of fantasy world suddenly sees that changing if an important accessible natural resource can be shown just as Brexit looms upon our doorstep? (Lots of Leavers across the North.)

    Some of us have no need to be fantasists. You lot have plenty to go around.

    • I seem to remember rubbishing your link at the time as being nothing to do with fracking, it was a report regarding a farmer from Chorley and his neighbour disputes, so naff all to do with the Fylde area and it was related to said farmers iffy attempt to apply pressure regarding a planning application.

      Absolutely nothing to do with anything Fracking or PNR or the Fylde but as we have come to expect from you Martin you have more tangents than a geometry text book.

      [Edited by moderator]

  5. People can read the time that posts are posted. For the rest of the antis-do you appreciate being manipulated?

    Fog nonsense.

    How to manufacture a conspiracy, kiddies version for those not switched on. Desperate stuff.

    I once read in the press the antis operated a “sophisticated Internet platform”. Seems one or two are determined to undermine that “credibility”. Wonder why? Maybe that’s why the injunctions are, so far, finding Court support.

    • No need for injunctions against protesters in the Republic of Ireland

      The UK Government have been hoodwinked by lobbyists and spin doctors that UK shale is a good bet. I imagine they wish they had not started on this road to nowhere.

      Somehow the Government think that Cuadrilla is a leader in this industry.

      Could the pro frackers post the list of shale wells across Europe that Cuadrilla have successfully fracked and produced commercially viable amounts of gas.

      Presumably there are thousands and it’s just bad luck that their first UK frack was a disaster and they had to ask HSE who was responsible for cement bond logs.

      Long list please with dates and output.

  6. Well, John, you seem to think one country’s policy and practice should follow what other countries do.

    Maybe you would like to protest against fossil fuel in the Middle East?

    Rather impatient regarding dates and output?

    “It’s coming home, it’s coming home. Frackings coming home!”

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