Friends of the Earth has launched legal proceedings to try to force Cuadrilla to “substantially reduce” the scale of its injunction against anti-fracking protests.
An initial hearing will take place at the High Court in Manchester on Friday (28 June 2019).
This is expected to follow a trial, starting tomorrow (Tuesday), of three anti-fracking protesters alleged to have breached Cuadrilla’s injunction at its shale gas site at Preston New Road, near Blackpool (DrillOrDrop article)
The Friends of the Earth action follows a landmark case at the Court of Appeal earlier this year. This ruled that key parts of a similar injunction granted to Ineos were unlawful and could have a chilling effect on peaceful protest.
In a judgement issued in April, three law lords struck out restrictions in the Ineos injunction on:
- Persons unknown “combining together” to unlawfully cause loss to Ineos
- Protesting against Ineos suppliers and contractors
- Protesting on the public highway, using tactics such as slow walking
The Cuadrilla injunction had many similar features and language to the original Ineos order, about which the Court of Appeal had complained.
Friends of the Earth, which intervened in the Ineos case, informed Cuadrilla last month that its injunction was also unlawful. In a letter before action, the organisation said Cuadrilla’s order should be revised to meet the standards set by the Court of Appeal in the Ineos ruling.
The letter said:
“The terms of your clients’ injunction suffer from a lack of clarity and prohibit conduct which goes beyond the economic torts which underpin them.”
Cuadrilla refused to make changes to its injunction, Friends of the Earth said today. As a result, an application had been filed with the High Court to vary the terms of the order.
Friends of the Earth’s Head of Political Affairs, Dave Timms said:
“Injunctions such as that granted to Cuadrilla, raise very significant human rights issues and are a sinister attempt to use the law to stop peaceful protest against the fracking industry.
“They create a climate of fear where people taking peaceful protest are uncertain about whether their actions could breach the often vague and uncertain terms of the injunction, with the risk of imprisonment or having their assets seized if they do.
“Rather than being dealt with by the criminal courts, 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.
“The Court of Appeal rightly ordered significant reductions to Ineos’ draconian and wide-ranging injunction, to protect human rights. Cuadrilla must now abide by this judgement.”
Friends of the Earth’s challenge will begin with a directions hearing at the Civil Justice Centre in Manchester.
The Cuadrilla injunction is one of five similar orders granted since 2017 to onshore oil and gas companies against certain protest activity by “persons unknown”. The injunctions cover 16 sites in 10 counties.
DrillOrDrop invited Cuadrilla to respond to the Friends of the Earth legal action. We’ll update this article with any comment from the company. It declined to comment on its legal action against the three protesters which begins tomorrow.