Three anti-fracking campaigners have failed in their legal challenge to quash Cuadrilla’s injunction against protests at the Preston New Road shale gas site near Blackpool. They said they would seek permission to appeal.
Katrina Lawrie, Christopher Wilson and Lee Walsh argued that the suspension of fracking at the site last week, following more than 120 earth tremors, meant the injunction was no longer needed and should be discharged.
They also said if the injunction continued sections should be struck out to bring it into line with a ruling earlier this year by the Court of Appeal.
But the High Court judge who granted the Cuadrilla injunction dismissed both their challenges this morning at a hearing in Manchester.
Judge Mark Pelling said:
“I reject the application to discharge the injunction.”
He said it had not been part of the campaigners’ case until this week.
“Cuadrilla has had no opportunity to consider the points.”
He said the company had been subjected to wrongful behaviour in the past.
“There is clearly a risk that when or if fracking resumes this behaviour could happen again. It [Cuadrilla] should not suffer delay until an application is made for an injunction.”
Judge Pelling also rejected the campaigners’ call for the injunction to be limited to three months. He said this would not help the campaigners and would be unfair to the company.
On the variation of the injunction, Judge Pelling refused the campaigners’ case to strike out sections dealing with obstructing the site entrance, slow walking in front of vehicles, climbing on to delivery lorries, lock-on protests and interrupting the supply chain.
Lawyers for the campaigners had said these sections should be removed to make the injunction comply with a ruling by the Court of Appeal on a similar injunction granted to Ineos Shale.
The appeal judges had said parts of that injunction were unlawful because they were unclear or too wide. They also struck out the use of the concept of ‘intention’ in the Ineos order.
Cuadrilla had admitted that the injunction was “draconian” and made proposals to revise the disputed sections of its injunction.
Judge Pelling said the changes had clarified the injunction. He rejected the argument that the Ineos and Cuadrilla injunctions were the same. He said the Court of Appeal had not intended its ruling to alter the law on protests.
“[The campaigners] should have a right to express the views they wish to express and assemble together.
“But these rights do not trump the rights of others, including the claimants [Cuadrilla].”
He said the concept of persuasion was “at the heart” of the relevant articles in the European Convention of Human Rights. But acts, such as obstructing traffic to the Cuadrilla site, involved compulsion, rather than persuasion, he said.
Judge Pelling did not make an order for costs on the variation of the injunction.
He refused permission for an appeal against his ruling. The campaigners said they would make a submission direct to the Court of Appeal.
One of their barristers, Adam Wagner, said:
“There is a real prospect for success and there are compelling reasons for this case to go to the Court of Appeal because, as things stand, the law is now unclear.”
He said the High Court had made an error of law in allowing the concept of intention to remain in the order.
The campaigners had argued for a variation to the injunction as part of their case over breaches of the injunction also being sentenced this week.
Judge Pelling had found them in contempt of court after a trial in June 2019. Today he imposed four-week jail sentences suspended for two years on all the campaigners. Miss Lawrie received an additional two month sentence, suspended for two years, to run consecutively. Separate DrillOrDrop report