Legal

Trespassers face bigger penalties at UK fracking sites than Buckingham Palace, court told

181211 Angus and IGas injunction challenges DoD

Challengers to the IGas and Angus injunctions at the High Court in London. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Injunctions mean that people who trespass on a UK fracking site face a bigger maximum penalty than if they committed the same offence at Buckingham Palace, the High Court was told today.

Anti-fracking campaigner, Ian Crane, argued that injunctions at current and prospective fracking sites were creating a “parallel legal system”, available only to wealthy shale gas companies.

The injunctions gave greater protection to the fracking sites, with more severe penalties, than was available under the criminal law, he said.

Mr Crane is challenging an injunction granted to IGas, which prohibited trespass at three sites in Nottinghamshire and Cheshire.

The injunction also outlawed protests that would interfere with IGas’s access to the sites along private and public roads. DrillOrDrop report of the case for the injunction

Barrister Paul Powlesland, for Mr Crane, told a hearing in London that people found guilty of trespass at strategic buildings such as Buckingham Palace or the Houses of Parliament could be jailed under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act for up to six months.

But he said trespassing at a fracking site covered by an injunction could lead to contempt of court proceedings, where the maximum jail sentence could be two years. People found guilty of contempt of court could also face seizure of assets and court costs running into tens of thousands of pounds.

“Remedy for the few and not the many”

Mr Powlesland said of the injunction system:

“It is remedy for the few and not the many.”

He said IGas had refused to disclose how much seeking the injunction had cost but he estimated it was £50,000-£100,000.

“Everyone has a right to protection under the criminal law and while there are many factors that the Crown will weigh up, the financial means of the aggrieved is not one of them.

“The claimant’s [IGas] protection using injunctions is not available to everyone. And it is not available to the majority of people.

“There is an issue when companies are able to seek something better than the criminal law.

“This risks creating a quasi-criminal system parallel to the criminal law and crucially it has not been fully authorised by parliament.

“It is starting to create quite unfair consequences. Ordinary people, who have respect for the rule of law and see their local area threatened, could find themselves subject to a system which they cannot use themselves and they see the unfairness in that.”

“No imminent threat”

Yesterday, IGas’s barrister, Alan Maclean QC, argued that IGas faced a real and imminent threat of protests that would disrupt its operations at the three sites.

Today, Mr Powlesland dismissed the evidence of any threat at the Ellesmere Port site in Cheshire. The company did not have planning permission to carry out work and there had not been any protest activity for several years, he said.

181114Ellesmere Port FFEPaU

Photo: Frack Free Ellesmere Port and Upton

He described a photo call outside the site by opponents of IGas’s operations at Ellesmere Port.

“There is a real chance that this would be banned or that people would think it was banned and the injunction would have a chilling effect.”

Mr Powlesland added:

“The fracking industry has relied on a generalised bogeyman of anti-fracking protests which have happened elsewhere.

“If the evidence used by IGas to justify an injunction at Ellesmere Port is allowed, we face the situation where any operator with a site where fracking is envisaged would effectively be able to get an injunction even if it did not have planning permission.”

“Woolly wording”

Mr Powlesland described the wording of the injunction as woolly and unclear. This would deter people from protesting, he said.

The injunction included exclusion zones along delivery routes to the Nottinghamshire sites at Misson Springs and Tinker Lane.

The current wording did not exempt roadside verges from the exclusion zones so someone standing on the verge could be in breach of the injunction, Mr Powlesland said.

Yesterday, Mr Maclean said people could protest on one side of the gates, outside the exclusion zone, without fear of being in breach. But Mr Powlesland said:

“It is not for the fracking companies to dictate to those who oppose them how they should protest. Freedom to protest when you are told where to protest is not freedom at all.”

He said people riding a bicycle or using a mobility scooter could also be in breach if they held up lorries in the exclusion zones.

The injunction specifically outlawed the protest technique of lorry surfing, where activists climb onto the roof of a vehicle. Mr Powlesland said the current injunction order meant that someone who climbed onto their own vehicle in the exclusion zone could also be in breach of the injunction.

He said:

“This injunction should be defined incredibly carefully. If the claimants cannot do that or there is uncertainty, the injunctions should not be made.”

He also called for the removal of guidance which suggested that anyone who encouraged others to breach the injunction would also be at risk.

Injunction served by Facebook message

Two women from Surrey are challenging another injunction granted to Angus Energy for its oil exploration sites at Balcombe and Brockham in the Weald.

Vicki Elcoate told the court that agents for Angus Energy had attempted to serve its injunction using Facebook Messenger.

She sent the messages were sent, sometimes from a false identity, to a “random group” of individuals and organisations named on the injunction. It appeared that the list had been copied from a previous injunction sought by a different company for a different site several years earlier.

A witness statement accompanying the Angus injunction said the people on the list were known to the company “due to their extensive involvement with protests/unlawful activities at other oil and gas sites”.

Miss Elcoate said the claim was unfounded and Angus had produced no evidence to support it.

The people on the list included a curate from Caterham, a Dorking artist and a natural health consultant, she said. Some of the people on the list had never been to Balcombe or Brockham and had no connection with protesting.

Miss Elcoate described this method of service as “inappropriate, contradictory and threatening.” It had caused distress and anxiety and had tarnished reputations, she said. There had been lasting effects on some of the groups named.

She said:

“We seek a statement from the claimants [Angus] retracting the claim.

“No further use of the list should be made in this injunction or any other.”

Miss Elcoate said the list of names had been used by Angus to argue that there was an imminent threat to its sites and that an injunction was needed. She said:

“There is no relevant evidence or proof of an imminent threat”.

The company had cited examples from around the country and from long ago, none with immediate relevance to what is going on at either site, she added.

The other challenger, Pat Smith, told the court that protests at the Brockham site in January 2017 were prompted by local concerns that Angus was operating outside its planning permission.

She said Surrey County Council had told the company in September 2016 that it did not have consent for further drilling, but in January 2017 it drilled an unauthorised side-track.

This was revealed by protesters who had been monitoring the site, she said.

“An injunction will stop this happening in future because people are worried.”

There had already been a chilling effect on protests, she said.

DrillOrDrop report of the case for the injunction


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

26 replies »

  1. “There is an issue when companies are able to seek something better than the criminal law.“

    A good point well made. One law for ordinary citizens, another available for those that can afford it.

    • Likewise, one law for law abiding citizens (peaceful protestors) and seemingly something else sought by those who can’t operate within it.

    • The use of Injunctions have been twisted by corporations and our own government into gagging orders to prevent the human right of free speech and protest over embarrassing issues such as isolating children in incarceration cells such as the case of Bethany’s father who has fought to free his 17 year old daughter from the clutches of Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council who against all the statutes of child protection and ASD protocols locked his daughter up in an isolation cell and used forbidden restraint and stripped her naked if she complained.

      https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-birmingham-45849075

      https://itmustbemum.wordpress.com/2018/10/14/bethanys-dad-gives-the-rest-of-the-story/

      http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/rmhttp/fileon4/23_Transforming_care.pdf

      There are many other issues that are faced with injunction gagging orders, look it up and make up your own mind and decide if we are in the stranglehold of corporatist totalitarian Stalinist kangaroo court gagging orders to prevent free speech or not.

      These injunctions are Stalinist totalitarian strategies used to gag anyone who stands up against injustice and illegal activities of local and central government and corporations who cannot stand the light of day into their activities.

      And that is how the injunctions we see in the fracking issue are being used here, and we see what response we get from the anti anti fracking industry hacks and PR hot deskers. Attack the protester, that is all they have and that is intended to disguise the fact of the injunction process, which is no more than legally sanctioned gagging orders that should only be used in privacy or protection issues for vulnerable people and children.

      Not for fat cat corporations to prevent free speech and very necessary protest against the filthy activity of fracking in isolated communities.

      The misuse of secret court injunctions that are only supposed to be for national security issues has been mentioned before, to the resounding silence of the fracking industry we might add, but now this is an open court public issue and corporatist gagging orders to overturn the human rights of free speech and action, legal or not, must be overturned or we will see ourselves slide even further down the slippery slope towards a corporatist totalitarian dictatorship.

      If we cannot dare question the greed and corruption in government and corporatist high jacking of the law, for fear of breaking a law that is clearly one of gagging the truth, then we only have ourselves to blame.

      [Word changed at poster’s request]

  2. I was going to have a good long read, take the points on board; spend hours into the early Morning researching and decide if any points were worth putting forward.

    Then I saw in the first photo, front and centre Ian R Crane…

    Ian R Crane…

    After the hearing heading off to his plastic poorly insulated caravan burning gas canister after gas canister to keep warm… Wait for it, but totally against Gas…

    [Edited by moderator]

    • Kishy, your obsession with Ian R Crane is very amusing but a little worrying, we see that elsewhere don’t we boys and girls?

      However it diverts from the issue at hand, and that, i guess is why you waste so much space on yet another personal diatribe against individuals, rather than addressing the actual issue,

      No change there then?

      • I’m interested in your view on Mr Crane, Phil. Do you think this perception of him as having some unconventional views undermines his position? Or might it be an attempt to discredit him?

        • Sounds like a leading question, but i will oblige in the case that was a serious question?

          I dont think it has anything to do with Ian Jeff, obsession with irrelevant views on some other subject not related to fracking is just a standard PR hotdesk strategy attempt to discredit an individual rather than address the issues raised in the injunction in this case.

          I am happy to report or discuss with anyone who has interesting or challenging views on fracking and its associated avoidance of the word, after all, we read the anti anti posts don’t we? Or do we? And there be unconventional dragons of irrational bile and venom for sure?

          I believe in freedom of action, freedom of speech and openness and freedom opinion, regardless of position, assumed, sponsored or otherwise, that is anathema to many here who seek to close down anyone by association with some personal issue agenda, rather than anything remotely relevant to the issue.

          What i do not tolerate is attempts to discredit anyone based upon bias or corporate, or indeed government incentives and obsessional dictatorial imperatives.

          What is your position?

    • Sure Kisney, and I’m sure he burns alot of fuel trolling round the country.

      But we’ve all got to accept each individuals views for consideration rather than summarily dismiss.
      I’m sure alot of people are tolerant of a thought of a corporatist state agenda being driven by a deep state that is driven by views and money from corporates and super wealthy. So civil servant driven policy from a vested interest funded corporate control rather than the politicians above?

      And the article you’ve cited? Is this global warming evidence? Or climatic change evidence due to global warming? Or maybe evidence of the onset of another ice age due to the reduction in the dominant control of the earth by the sun and associated lack of sunspot activity.
      So, you can throw my climatic change scepticism into the pot as well if you want. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t try to reduce our fuel emissions, I’m just sceptical that the environment is changing because of it
      .
      It’s all a bid twisted mess whatever way you look at it. But good to mull over if you can’t sleep as of a night.

  3. Not a wise move to compare the severity of restriction with trespass around Buckingham Palace. There, you may be shot!

    I do wonder sometimes with regard to the common sense of some of these learned persons. Perhaps they should think where a statement may lead before they make it. Should read more regarding communication skills and less about legal matters.

  4. Ahh, the “I was ‘ere” use of the emoji. Goodness, it takes me back many years. Seems very little changes. I understand similar can be found from Roman times as well. What was I saying about communication skills?

  5. Yes, very interesting. The basic one is to provide accurate information, or if the accuracy is unknown not to guess and then try and demonstrate knowledge to those considered to have little knowledge . Red Diesel and vegetable oil come to mind. Alternatively, who owns Third Energy demonstrates much the same, so an Achilles Heel to many.

    • Ahhh, the old dead weasel ploy eh? That was discredited ages ago Martian, but it seems one sock puppet has to cling on….hmmmm, clingon…..klingon? to old invisible friends comfort blankets to provide the illusion of adequacy?

      Sad, and we see the Paunch and Judith show seems to be missing a (non) vital element dont we boys and girls? Oh yes we do!

      Do you have an injunction against giggling BTW? Now there is a bottom drawer full of sock puppets that must not be opened isn’t it?

  6. Under our Human Rights Act:

    WE HAVE THE RIGHT TO PEACEFULLY PROTEST

    “That means that we must be allowed to take part in peaceful assemblies like marches, protests and demonstrations.”

      • If an action is unlawful we have laws, police and courts to deal with it. There is no need for wealthy private companies to attempt to suppress and deter protest by the use of injunctions. Injunctions which carry penalties hugely disproportionate to those issued by the courts.

    • Disrupting lawful businesses and citizens from undertaking their law abiding activities is not peaceful nor lawful. Slow walking traffic, obstructing the highway, locking onto vehicles, littering, breaching the peace….all examples of non-peaceful activities associated with some protestors.

      It’s amazing how [edited by moderator] some of the minority still don’t get it. Adds further weight to maintaining and extending injunctions.

      • R8LMX – As I said, If an action is found by the courts to be unlawful we have laws to deal with it and punishments commensurate with that action. These injunctions aim to intimidate and deter any kind of protest. This is the thin end of a very dangerous wedge.

  7. I see [MC] still comments
    The one who [edited by moderator] is way too scared to come down to a protection camp and meet us women and children.

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