Legal

Campaigners bring test case against “chilling” protest injunctions

171031 Ineos injunction dod

Opponents of Ineos injunctions at a High Court hearing in October 2017. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Some of the most extensive restrictions on anti-fracking protests are to be challenged at the Court of Appeal tomorrow morning (5 March 2019).

Three senior judges will begin considering cases brought by two campaigners against injunctions granted to Ineos Upstream, the country’s biggest shale gas licence holder.

The hearing is being seen as a test case over restrictions on protests.

It is the latest stage in an 18-month legal battle by Joe Corre, fashion designer and founder of Talk Fracking, and the campaigner, Joe Boyd.

“Unprecedented and draconian”

170926 INEOS injunction Woodsetts Against Fracking

Ineos staff installing injunction notice at the proposed Woodsetts shale gas site in south Yorkshire. Photo: Woodsetts Against Fracking

The campaigners have described the injunctions as “unprecedented” and “draconian”. They said the orders were already having a “chilling effect” on free speech in the debate about fracking.

The injunctions, first granted at a private hearing in July 2017, apply to eight Ineos locations. They comprise the prospective shale gas sites at Harthill, and Woodsetts, in South Yorkshire and Marsh Lane, Derbyshire; the production sites at Doe Green, Cheshire and Ebberston South, North Yorkshire; and headquarters in central London and Hampshire.

Ineos argued that the injunctions were necessary to protect the locations against what it said was a “real threat of interference from protests”. Its operations director, Tom Pickering, told DrillOrDrop at the time:

“It doesn’t affect the peaceful right to protest”.

The order awarded to Ineos became a template in cases sought by other shale gas and onshore exploration companies.

Locations in ten counties operated by five companies are now covered by injunctions against protests. They also include:

  • IGas at Misson Springs and Tinker Lane, in Nottinghamshire, and Ellesmere Port in Cheshire;
  • Cuadrilla at Preston New Road in Lancashire;
  • Angus Energy at Balcombe in West Sussex and Brockham in Surrey;
  • UK Oil and Gas plc at Broadford Bridge, West Sussex, Horse Hill in Surrey, and offices in Guildford

Two of the sites covered by the injunctions do not have planning permission.

The Ineos injunctions prohibited people from interfering with the lawful activities of Ineos staff and contractors.

They outlawed trespass and what was described as unlawful and unreasonable obstruction of the highway. This included slow walking, climbing on vehicles and lock-on protests.

The injunctions were brought against “persons unknown” – anyone who defied the terms of the court order. People who breached the order risked prison, fines or seizure of their assets.

Legal battle

Joe Corre and Joseph Boyd Ian R Crane

Photo: Ian R Crane

Joe Corre (left) and Joe Boyd first went to court in September 2017 to challenge the injunctions granted at a private hearing five weeks earlier.

Mr Justice Morgan dismissed their case at the commercial section of the High Court in November 2017. He also later refused their application to appeal.

But in May 2018, Lady Justice Asplin, allowed them to pursue their cases at the Court of Appeal.

Appeal grounds

Mr Boyd was successful on three of his six grounds for appeal:

  • Human Rights Act aspects of the case
  • Injunction on protests against the supply chain
  • Use of the injunction against “persons unknown”

Lady Justice Asplin said: “there is a real prospect of success” on the 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 was allowed to appeal on one of the grounds. Lady Justice Asplin said:

” 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.”

Mr Boyd, who is raising money for his case through the Crowdjustice website, said :

“This case is incredibly important. Fracking remains strongly opposed by local communities up and down the country and they should be able to resist this unpopular industry without fear of a fine or imprisonment”

He is represented by the law firm, Leigh Day. Solicitor Anna Dew said:

“Free speech and a right to peacefully protest is the core of any effective democracy.

“This injunction has become a test case, used at the moment by other fracking companies, but which has wide-ranging implications that reach far beyond any debate around the environmental damage of fracking.

“We will be arguing on behalf of our client that it represents an attack on the right to protest without facing the fear of arrest and imprisonment”.

Joe Corre, represented by Garden Court Chambers, said:

“These injunctions started by Ineos are a full-frontal assault on our civil liberties. By gaming the British legal system and using secret courts, these companies are buying the law.”

He added:

“I am hopeful that the Court of Appeal will reverse this situation which has allowed Ineos to buy the law and trample on our human rights to protest.

“The interim injunction was first granted at a secret court hearing. Ineos convinced the judge secrecy was necessary by painting local communities with legitimate concerns as ‘dangerous fanatics’ and ‘militant activists’.”

On the “persons unknown” case, Mr Corre said:

“If that holds, it means that any company that wants to do anything that might be a bit unpopular and that attracts any kind of protest against it can issue this type of injunction and it will effectively quash protest in this country.”

Update

Friends of the Earth announced on the morning of the hearing that it was intervening in the appeal. Dave Timms, head of political affairs at the campaign organisation, said:

“Friends of the Earth intervened in this important case because private oil and gas companies want to limit the public’s hard-fought-for right to peaceful protest. We support Joe Corré and Joe Boyd in their legal challenge to stop Ineos stifling free speech among citizens who want to exercise their right to peacefully protest about the impact of fracking on their environment.

“These draconian injunctions create a climate of fear where people taking lawful protest are uncertain about whether their actions could breach an injunction with the risk of imprisonment or having their assets seized. They put decisions about public order policing into the hands of the oil and gas industry with their army of corporate lawyers and private security firms.”

  • DrillOrDrop will be reporting from the case. It will be heard by Lord Justice Longmore, Lord Justice David Richards and Lord Justice Leggatt. It is listed for Court 67 at the Royal Courts of Justice, The Strand, London WC2, starting at 10.30am.

Ineos injunction timeline

31 July 2017

Mr Justice Morgan grants an interim injunction at a private hearing at the High Court to Ineos companies and landowners. Details

6 September 2017

Anti-fracking campaigner, Joe Corre, announces he is to go to court to challenge the Ineos injunction. s announce they will challenge the injunctions. Details

11 September 2017

Joe Boyd announces he is to challenge the Ineos injunction. Details

12 September 2017

Joe Corre and Joe Boyd begin challenge at High Court – interim injunction renewed for two months or until future court date. Details

31 October 2017

Opening day of High Court challenge to Ineos injunctions hears that the company has compiled a dossier of social media posts to support its case. Details

1 November 2017

High Court challenge to Ineos injunctions hears they have had a “chilling effect” on the fracking debate. Details

2 November 2017

Mr Justice Morgan reserves judgement in challenge against Ineos injunctions. Details

23 November 2017

Mr Justice Morgan rules that Ineos injunctions should continue. Breaking news and details of ruling

26 November 2017

Campaigners say they will fight on against the injunctions. Details

12 December 2017

Final order published by High Court. Link

21 December 2017

Mr Justice Morgan refuses permission to Joe Corre and Joe Boyd to appeal against his ruling. The campaigners say they will seek permission directly from the Court of Appeal. Details

24 May 2018

Lady Justice Asplin grants permission to Joe Boyd and Joe Corre to appeal against the ruling of Mr Justice Morgan. Details

9 replies »

  1. GOOD LUCK! Remember to have some short pithy strong and emotional TV comments. Ring the television news BBC and ITV
    David Larder

  2. Good on them, yes, It was simply outrageous that this was ever passed in law. People have a democractic right to protest.
    Waving banners in areas ‘dictated’ to by a company/authorities is simply unlawful. Wishing the guys the very best. Very proud of them.

  3. All the very best from a local at PNR.

    Now the Government have generously agreed to pay the bulk of Lancashire Constabulary anti-fracking policing costs the injunctions have actually made their presence virtually unnecessary by strange coincidence! Only the Constabulary persist in hiding away in large vans at Penny Farm the charitable home for retired police horses and their handlers.

    I’m still waiting to find out when Lancashire residents will be getting their anti-fracking council tax levies refunded by the way!

    [Typo corrected at poster’s request]

  4. Environmental and human rights campaigners are challenging what they say is a “draconian” injunction, which prevents “persons unknown” from trespassing on or obstructing access to the company’s shale gas sites.

    The injunction, granted by the High Court in November 2017, also prevents people from combining together to commit unlawful acts “with the intention of damaging” Ineos or any other companies in its supply chain.

    Ineos argues the injunction is intended to only “prohibit unlawful activities” and not “injunct lawful activity”.

    What’s wrong with the injunction?

    • All those items you state may or may not be unlawful, depending on the circumstances. It’s up to the courts to decide after hearing all the facts whether something is lawful or not and issue the appropriate punishment. What these privately funded injunctions do is to place blanket prevention on any action before it happens, whether or not it would later have been found to be legal or illegal. They also place far higher punishments on individuals than the law would do. This is clearly intended to be a deterrent to inhibit protest whether lawful or not. I don’t want to live in a country where the richer someone is the more they can control others’ freedoms. It’s the thin end of a very dangerous wedge.

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