Legal

Drilling companies accused of harassment by women named in protest injunctions

180918 Balcombe DoD7

Protest against Angus Energy flow test at Balcombe, West Sussex, 18 September 2018. Photo: DrillOrDrop

A natural health therapist who briefly joined a Facebook group about oil drilling in Surrey was named in a High Court injunction against protests at two places she had never visited.

Helen King told the court this morning:

“I do not know why my name is on the injunction order. I have done nothing for them to pick my name off Facebook.”

Ms King, who lost a day’s work to attend the court in London, was one of 46 individuals and groups named in the interim injunction order granted in private last month to Angus Energy. The order sought to prohibit some types of protests at the company’s oil sites at Balcombe in West Sussex and Brockham in Surrey.

A witness statement by lawyers for Angus Energy said the named people or groups had “extensive involvement with protests/unlawful activities at other oil and gas sites in the proximity of the sites”.

Ms King, who once lived near a prospective, but now abandoned, oil site at Leith Hill, was served with the injunction by Facebook messenger.

She said she did not recognise the names of the people who contacted her and did not open the message until she was alerted by others that she had been named on the injunction. She told the court:

“As a member of the public, to get ten documents, some with 300 pages, and to hear about potential costs and imprisonment, it is very frightening.

“No solicitor would give me advice because they said I would not get legal aid.

“I don’t know where my name came from. I have never been to Brockham. I have never been to Balcombe.

“I want Angus Energy to explain why my name was on a list in the first place and why I was served on Facebook.”

The judge, Mr Justice Zacaroli, said the hearing was listed for only two hours and there was no time to answer her questions.

Outside the court, Ms King said she had looked back at the Facebook group and saw that most of her posts had been praising attractive pictures of Leith Hill.

“This is the thin end of the wedge. If you don’t stand up to this what do you want to stand up for?”

Angus Energy injunction

Another woman, Emily Mott, told the court

“This is harassment. It has a chilling effect.”

She was representing the group, Markwells Wood Watch, which was also named on the injunction order. It campaigned against potential oil drilling by a different company on the Hampshire border, 48 miles from Balcombe and 55 miles from Brockham.

Outside the court, Ms Mott said:

“We find it shocking that we have been targeted unfairly by this legal action when we have never engaged in any illegal activities nor any of the activities named in the injunction.

“There is a reasonable basis to conclude that our protected activities will be chilled— that our organisation and those affiliated may be discouraged from joining or being involved and that those directly associated may in fact do less speaking, associating or petitioning and peacefully demonstrating.  It is also true that members are  likely to withdraw and those who are not members are more likely to think of our group as involved in more extreme actions and even assoiciate our group with criminal activity.

“The impact of “chill” will be confounded if oil companies keep getting away with these wide injunctions against persons unknown and naming people and groups that are not directly associated with the sites listed in the injunction.”

Ms Mott asked the court about whether people who had attended the hearing could claim costs. Judge Zacaroli said:

“I do not think so. Parties may be able to get their legal costs but not for time or transport.”

Ms Mott replied:

“These companies can list who they want, people like us who have nothing to do with it, and then there is nothing we can do about it.”

Infant support group named

Another group which challenged its name on the injunction was Surrey Hills Slings, which promotes breast feeding and the use of slings for infants. It supports vulnerable parents in the area around Leith Hill and uses the countryside for therapeutic walks.

The group had previously been named on an injunction sought by Europa Oil & Gas about protests at the Leith Hill site. In a statement to the court, the group said:

“Following this event we found ourselves subject to ongoing intimidation and harassment by Europa.”

It said it had blocked all unrelated content on its Facebook page and had not been aware that it had been included on the Angus Energy injunction until three days before today’s court hearing.

Another nine people challenged the inclusion of their names on the injunction order and 23 people have sent witness statements to the court opposing the injunction.

The court extended the order until another hearing, expected to last three days, starting on about 10 December 2018.

It also extended a similar injunction by IGas for two sites in Nottinghamshire and one in Cheshire.

Injunction lists residents groups

On that injunction order, IGas had named 35 people under the heading “believed to oppose the Claimants’ activity at the Sites”.

DrillOrDrop has already reported that this list included the residents’ group, Misson Community Action Group, and the web address for the Tinker Lane community liaison group, which works to share information about the Tinker Lane shale gas site.

The barrister for both Angus Energy and IGas, Alan Maclean QC, said the companies were willing to remove the schedules listing the names from both injunctions until the next hearing. But he said that the companies may seek to use schedules in future.

Mr Maclean told the court:

“The schedule was a mechanism for serving the injunction order. It does not suggest that people have done or are likely to do anything. It is not an injunction against anyone.”

But Zoe O’Sullivan, a court official representing people who did not have lawyers, disagreed:

“The claimants have taken it upon themselves to identify people as likely to be involved in unlawful activity. I suggest it is not just about being on a list. It is not good enough to name people on a schedule. It will have potential effects on people’s lives and this is why people have come to court today.”

Mr Maclean replied:

“These individuals have said they do not want to go on this list and we are willing for them to be taken off.”

But he added:

“It is not right that there is acceptance of some error. There is no acceptance of any error or any wrong doing.”

“Excessive” exclusion zones

Campaigners had sought to make changes to the order before the next hearing.

Ian Crane, who is opposing the IGas order, said exclusion zones on roads around the Nottinghamshire shale gas sites at Tinker Lane and Springs Road, Misson, were unnecessary and excessive. He also made the case that there should be no injunction on the IGas site at Ellesmere Port because the company had no current planning permission.

He said the exclusion zones in Nottinghamshire, which ran to several miles, had prompted considerable community anger because people had been careful to limit protests to the site entrances.

Vicki Elcoate, representing people near the Angus Energy sites at Brockham and Balcombe, argued against exclusion zones in these injunctions. She said they included long stretches of rural lanes and it was unclear where the injunction applied.

The judge maintained the interim injunction against the Ellesmere Port site in Cheshire. He said IGas had the right to use the access road to the site. On the exclusion zones, he maintained them for all the other sites until the next hearing. He said:

“I consider that cutting down the scope without considered argument would risk prejudicing the claimants.”

  • DrillOrDrop was named on both the IGas and Angus Energy injunctions. We asked the court and the companies’ lawyers to remove the DrillOrDrop name and this has been agreed.

Reporting at this hearing was made possible by individual donations from DrillOrDrop readers.

40 replies »

  1. Yet again the local communities will be disgusted yet again at the decision, but if any good is coming from these injunctions its that local communities in rural Middle England will be realising they are under full attack by the state. Therefore, it is inevitable that eventually this is going to all backfire on the corporates and the corporate courts!

  2. No, the local communities who were fed up of a few locals attracting many more from far and wide to cause disruption (who was sentenced recently regarding PNR and where did they come from?) will be delighted.

    I lived in Surrey, met my wife there who was born and grew up there. I have close relatives who live in Nottinghamshire.

    The silent majority who would like a few to be more silent, or go somewhere else to whinge.

      • Angus energy are not f–king Fracking or any other company in the Weald valley Get It jackthelad Keep your protest up north

        • GORDON SLADE,

          I never said they were, DID I ???

          The link I presented highlighted the fact that AGIANST what government and industry spin doctors say about money and utopia for all who embrace Oil and Gas extraction on their doorsteps , the reality is somewhat very different .

          BUT, if you or MARTIN show me a majority anywhere in the country that want Oil and Gas exploration of Any Kind in close proximity to their towns or villages.. I not only, will FULLY embrace the project myself, I also will show you a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow .

          • MAYBE and I say MAYBE , the more traditional forms of Oil and Gas extraction would have gone ahead unhindered if it wasn’t for Fracking effectively poking a stick in to the Hornets Next .

            Now, you only have to mention the word Oil or Gas and armies of people mobilise against the industry , NO matter what the companies are wanting to do .

            GORDON SLADE, I feel that the many problems the industry is facing down South, have been amplified by the Fracking battle up North .

            AND that’s coming from someone who has said before, that he is mindful to accept traditional forms of Oil extraction on his own doorstep… ( WITH CERTAIN CONDITIONS )

            [Typo corrected at poster’s request]

            • What all this does highlight, more than anything and this can sometimes be forgotten and lost in the text of battle .

              Is people readiness to NOW, fully embrace a green and renewable future .

            • Spot on Jack…the more traditional forms of Oil and Gas extraction would have gone ahead unhindered if it wasn’t for brainwashed anarchists effectively poking a Fracking stick in to areas where no Fracking is taking place.

            • THE BIGGER PICTURE ,

              R8 LMX, you only have to zoom in on the above photo to see, these are not your Jack boot, Swastika wearing far right anarchists . There lies the problem for the industry .. These are your ordinary, working, tax paying folk, voters.

              If they wern’t , this situation would be muck quicker and easier to deal with by the government and industry.

              NOW , I’m not fully clued up on the residents battles against the Oil and Gas industry down South, as we have our own, heavy time absorbing problems with the O&G industry up North . Therefore it is difficult for me to pass a knowledgeable judgment on the matter .

              What I can say though , is that FRACKING has certainly hastened the demise of the onshore O&G in general and made the public think a lot harder as to the impact ” as a whole ” extracting and burning fossil fuels has.

              The tide has turned against the onshore O&G industry and it will now be near impossible to put the Genie back in the bottle…….

              A few years ago people were up in arms about wind farms being in close proximity to their homes ……

              GIVE THEM A CHOICE NOW, either O&G extraction or a wind farm close to their homes and I will put you money on it , they will lovingly embrace a wind farm .

              • F#*k knows why these pro-frackers seem to think anyone who protests is an automatic anarchist, but could totally understand if they become one, especially these days! Agree with much of what you say but when have anarchists ever worn swastikas!? That represents the opposite of anarchism.

            • DestroyPowerNotPeople,

              No direct implication to either the extreme left or right intended .

              The Swastika reference was just a loose figure of speech.

              Regards , Jack

              • Ok, just that “far-right anarchist” stood out as a massive oxymoron. If anything it’s the far-right fascists who are supporters of fracking and the traditional libertarian-socialists/ anarchists against.

          • When people use expletive language and use upper case (capitals), to support their arguments, you know they have lost the argument.
            As an aside, on the question of energy security, in the seventies, we started exporting as much oil, as we imported. Later on, it was the same for gas, so the UK squandered its resources for what? Now, it wants to exploit unconventional oil and gas, despite the clear message, that the remaining oil and gas should remain in the ground!
            From the UK ONS, the UK exported in 2017:
            Crude oil £15,226,000,000;
            Refined oil £11,536,000,000;
            Gas; £2,903,000,000.

            • Patrick
              I am not sure of the point you make re exports.
              For gas we export to Ireland. We could cut them off I guess after getting them to commission a suitably sized lng terminal? You could argue that they import Norwegian gas, but more likely Scottish.
              Some platforms in the Southern n sea export their gas directly into the Dutch grid.
              Some gas from a UK NNsea platform is exported to a Norwegian oil platform for use as gas lift ( as they are in close proximity ).
              Other gas is Norwegian gas flowing through the UK system on its way to Europe

              For crude oil, a.most all oil comes from Scotland, and a fair proportion of that is tanker loaded, either directly ( Quad 204 ) or Via Sullom Voe ( Clair / Clair phase 2, Magnus etc et. ).
              Once in a tanker, it goes where it gets the best price, and to a refinery happy to take it.

              How would it work for steel? We import it, but also export it in the form of cars.

              As a trading nation importing and exporting ( at a profit ) is what we need to do?

  3. This should be investigated further. Selecting random names to be included in an injunction is legally unacceptable. Individuals that have caused no unlawful impediment to this company, where there is no evidence they are likely to and have never been to the named sites should seek redress. They may not be able to seek all expenses incurred from the courts but they certainly can from the companies. My advice is get a good lawyer. These women may find one that is willing to represent them pro bono or recover their fees from the company. But I certainly would not accept this behaviour.

  4. Yet more corporate fascism from a dirty industry using dirty underhand threats to recklessly attack people who weren’t even there! These draconian actions only serve to galvanise opposition and mistrust in this parasitic industry.

  5. Injunction have been extended to minority .Get over it .Silent majority win .Including me who live near balcombe site Win Win for local economy Job / uk oil / Even company will give % of profit to local communities

    • When INJUCTIONS are needed against the will of the people, you know an industry is FINISHED .

      NOT a minority, YOU prove otherwise.

  6. Martin, how intuitive you must be. I quote your comment “I lived in Surrey, met my wife there who was born and grew up there. I have close relatives who live in Nottinghamshire.” Somehow this appears to entitle you to express an opinion of the silent majority in these two large counties.

    What power you must wield. So you no longer live in Surrey but do have relatives in Nottinghamshire. Thanks for enlightening us with your mystic prowess. If I have any questions about Surrey or Nottinghamshire, you are top of the ‘go to’ list.

    • By the same token, the protestors from nowhere near PNR should not represent the anarchist movement they fell on their swords for?

  7. Reminds me a bit, of the days construction companies blacklisted people, who they thought were involved in trade union and health & safety action. Spread the net wide, ensuring you get as many people as possible, to silence the majority. Just as with the totally inhuman and unjust welfare sanctions, our legal system is becoming more and more a tool for the rich and corporations to keep people in their place.

    • Or to take a more accurate view on it – making sure that as many of the minority, those who are most likely to attempt to frustrate legitimate business from proceeding as they should, are aware of the repercussions of their puppet masters’ intentions. I dare say many will now think twice. Others are too heavily brainwashed to do so.

    • It’s to silence the majority and anyone..to intimidate and squash any resistance ..
      To show their power with the courts and lawyers..
      What’s the ratio of women to men..
      They usually pounce on the women more..
      It’s a rape Industry and their rape continues in the courts.
      I’m under a permanent injunction in my Gasland world for reporting on their harmful antics.

      • Vera
        Looking at pictures on DOD, one could imagine that more women are involved, or maybe more active than men. The picture above is a good example.

        Then there are the various women against groups ( women led marches ) but a complete absence of ‘men against’ groups.

        But, it may be that this is not the case. You ask what the ratio is, and maybe someone has the answer.

  8. Taste of their own medicine, having to fork out cash for wasting time. Hopefully they’ll realise being a keyboard warrior can have consequences in the future.

Add a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.