Criminal law doesn’t work for anti-fracking protests, High Court told


Slow walking protest near Angus Energy’s Brockham site in 2017. Photo: Jon O’Houston

Two oil and gas companies argued today that only a High Court injunction would stop protests at drilling sites across England.

Alan Maclean QC, representing IGas Energy plc and Angus Energy, said the companies were subject to hostility and direct actions, including slow walking, lock-ons and lorry surfing.

He told a hearing at the High Court in London:

“There are a significant number of protesters, many of whom have the objective of preventing shale gas exploration taking place in the UK.

“There are quite a lot of people willing to take these actions. For every one person who is arrested there are others who are prepared to do exactly the same thing.

“Picking them off one by one with the criminal law would not work.”

Mr Maclean said the companies were “not in the business of preventing lawful protest”. He said:

“If you want to hold a banner or shout or bang a tambourine you can do this near the site entrance all day and all night.”

But he said opponents of the industry were actively seeking to hinder “specific commercial activities” taking place on oil and gas sites.

Angus and IGas are the latest in a series of oil and gas companies seeking High Court injunctions. Orders have been granted to Cuadrilla, Europa, UK Oil and Gas and Ineos. A challenge to the Ineos injunction is due to start at the court of appeal in March 2019. People who are in breach of an injunction order could face fines, seizure of assets or a jail sentence.

Today’s hearing was told that the IGas injunction, if granted, would cover two shale gas sites (Misson Springs and Tinker Lane in north Nottinghamshire) and a site at Ellesmere Port in Cheshire for which IGas does not currently have planning permission. The Angus injunction would cover two oil sites at Balcombe in West Sussex and Brockham in Surrey.

The proposed injunctions for both companies are in three parts seeking protection from:

  • Trespass on the sites
  • Interference with access to sites
  • Nuisance from obstruction of the public highway

The companies are asking for exclusion zones along delivery routes to sites at Misson Springs, Tinker Lane, Balcombe and Brockham in which protest activities would be banned.

Specific protest actions, including lock-ons, lorry surfing and slow walking are prohibited in the draft injunction order, even though slow walking is tolerated and facilitated by some police forces.

Mr Maclean said the injunction applications were based on evidence of an “imminent threat” from protests that had already happened at some of the five sites, at others where IGas was the operator or at facilities run by other companies.

He said IGas and Angus had a right to carry out their activities without unlawful interference. But he said:

“There is a significant degree of hostility towards the claimants and other onshore oil and gas industry participants.

“This hostility is rooted in opposition to the planned, and entirely lawful, facilities that IGas and Angus seek to carry out at their respective sites. There are also serious health and safety considerations that arise as a result of the unlawful protester activity.”

If the injunctions were not granted, he said, the companies “will soon thereafter find themselves subjected to the unlawful activities which they seek to restrain”.

An early version of both draft orders was criticised because they included a list of individuals and organisations.  Some of the names had little, if any, connection with protest or campaigning against the companies or the industry.

Some people on the lists had never been to the Angus or IGas sites. The IGas list included the website of the Tinker Lane Community Liaison Group, while the Angus list had a support organisation for parents seeking support for breastfeeding their babies.

Mr Maclean said the companies had drawn up the list in order to publicise the injunction as widely as possible.

But the IGas injunction was criticised for alleging names on the list were believed to oppose the company’s activities.

A witness statement by a solicitor accompanying the Angus injunction claimed “the individuals referred to in Schedule 12 [the Angus list] are known to the Claimant due to their extensive involvement with protests/unlawful activities at other oil and gas sites”. This is disputed by some people named on the list.

Like the other industry injunctions, IGas and Angus are seeking orders against “persons unknown”. Mr Maclean said Ineos had proved its case in favour of this approach to injunctions, though this issue is likely to be key part of the appeal next year.

The Angus and IGas hearing continues tomorrow with arguments against the injunctions. The anti-fracking campaigner Ian Crane is challenging the IGas order. Two women from Dorking are presenting evidence as interested parties in the Angus case.

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

23 replies »

  1. The same rationale for the injunction existing in the first place remains valid now. The antis’ actions have merely strengthened that.

    It will be extended.

    • An industry running scared and being pummelled by well organised communities supported by top planning and legal teams.

      Hence no shale gas in 8 years

  2. By antis you mean concerned communities who do not wish for this unwanted and unnecessary dirty high risk industry imposed upon them by the current deceitful government whereby some are nothing more than industry puppets.

    • No, I mean the people who have engaged in unlawful activities whilst protesting against O&G and in doing so have created the basis upon which an injunction was granted. Those who protest lawfully don’t fall into that category, but are of course impacted by their comrades and rent-a-mob anarchists who are unable to adhere to the law. A large proportion of those who are to blame for injunctions being granted have nothing to do with local or community.

      • R8LMX slavery and apartheid were once lawful but it didn’t make them right. Extracting new sources of fossil fuels that are destroying the planet isn’t right and must become unlawful.

        • But, at the moment it is lawful and should be protected by the law against unlawful activity. We could all have our own “wrongs” that we don’t like and could bore the pants off everyone who wished to listen, but then to take unlawful action against those wrongs and not expect consequences is juvenile. The sort of juvenile mentality that parents deal with before their children reach puberty. But obviously some have missed some education.

          • MC, Lenin and the rest of the Bolsheviks argued this to betray the workers’ revolution and enforce totalitarian laws. These laws were current at that time and it later lead to your condescending, paternalistic rhetoric for re-“education” of the “juvenile delinquency” apparently. Very good for useful idiots who want to mindlessly uphold unjust laws. Sometimes breaking unjust law is very necessary when people’s livelihoods or lives are at stake.

      • Well we know injunctions can effectively be bought, whether it’s a prem footballer hiding his relationships with underage girls or an oil company trying to avoid citizens catching them out next time they are in breach of planning permission (e.g. Angus drilling it’s unlicensed Kimmeridge drillpath which they claimed was emergency maintenance on an existing well, but you are getting ahead of yourself R8, let’s wait for the judge to rule on the hearing shall we?

      • Come off it you know perfectly well that if something is unlawful there is by definition a law against it already.

        As to peacefulness, this is one of the people arrested at Brockham nearly 2 years ago now, she and the others were in regular contact with SCC’s planning dept. and well aware of that a breach was occurring.

        Angus Energy [edited by moderator] on several occasions about what they were doing but local residents exposed them using these symbolic actions which where never going to stop them.

        Needless to say no sanction was applied to Angus.

    • So you are promoting anarchism and illegal direct action are you Ellie? For someone schooled in the law thats a bit of a surprise. These activities are licenced under very strict regulations (the ones you dont understand) and to take illegal action against that is criminal.

  3. The headline is deliberately misleading. This isn’t about fracking at all. Angus are not fracking at Brockham. Sloppy or provocative journalism.

    • Except that it is about fracking Meldrew, try reading the “sloppy or provocative” journalism again.

      Spoiler alert, look out for the word “igas”.

    • People banging tambourines and Nanas baking yummy lemon drizzle muffins………….shut industry down for eight years.

      Priceless and not easy to explain to investors.

  4. Its amazing how the Frackers think having lots of people who oppose them is justification for having the normal rules around reasonable protest suspended. Fundamentally fracking is a public health issue, either on a micro scale on a specific site, a community wide scale issue for water and air quality, or macro issue on climate change and the wider environment. The public tend to care about their health, and quite rightly protest when people come in trying to make them and their families ill just so they an make a quick buck. Or not as it happens!

  5. Some of the public, JSmith. The majority are not that concerned with fracking currently.

    Lawful protest is one thing. Mob rule is another-see HH, not that far away from Angus (which is not fracking anyway.)

  6. They say unlawful,but only because the well should have been reinstated to green field,but how could that have been done in between two wells on a oil production site,both parties should have resolved this in house but too many agendas involved in PC Britain,absolutely ridiculous situation to have been in

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