Important sections of the injunction against protests outside Cuadrilla’s fracking site near Blackpool have been abandoned.
New notices have been displayed at the site at Preston New Road.
The changes bring Cuadrilla’s injunction into line with a ruling by the Court of Appeal on Ineos’s injunction. They also meet demands made by campaigners at the High Court last year.
The revised injunction order, seen by DrillOrDrop, shows that the company has given up on sections which outlawed obstruction of the highway and blocking the site entrance or bellmouth.
The new version, dated 8 January 2020, has deleted the prohibition of slow walking, lock-on protests and climbing onto vehicles. Action against Cuadrilla’s supply chain of contractors has also been removed.
DrillOrDrop asked Cuadrilla for the reasons for the changes. The company has not responded. But the order said the company said sought the variation because it had:
“ceased hydraulic fracturing on the PNR land following the government moratorium on the same such that there [sic] no sufficient threat of such unlawful activities to warrant the continuation of that relief.”
These changes had been sought in a legal challenge by three anti-fracking campaigners, Katrina Lawrie, Christopher Wilson and Lee Walsh, in September last year.
They argued at the High Court in Manchester that the injunction was no longer needed because the regulator, the Oil & Gas Authority, had suspended fracking at Preston New Road.
This followed the UK’s largest fracking-induced tremor, measuring 2.9ML on August Bank Holiday Monday.
Cuadrilla opposed their case and the judge, Mark Pelling, refused to vary the injunction.
Giving his ruling, Judge Pelling said:
“[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].”
The new Cuadrilla order, which implements the changes the campaigners sought, also brings the company’s injunction into line with revisions made to the Ineos injunction. They followed a successful appeal last year by the campaigner, Joe Boyd.
The Court of Appeal ruled in April 2019 that parts of the Ineos injunction were unlawful. It quashed sections that prohibited protests on the public highway and against the Ineos supply chain.
Cuadrilla has also removed the concept of “intention” from the injunction, in line with the ruling by the Court of Appeal in the Ineos case.
The new Cuadrilla injunction also changed the defendants named on the injunction order.
The company has added the three campaigners who had challenged the injunction and were also found in contempt of court for breaching the injunction.
It deleted Friends of the Earth as a defendant. The organisation withdrew from a challenge to the injunction because it faced the threat of costs from Cuadrilla of about £85,000. The name of another protester who has since died has also been deleted.
The new version of the injunction continues to apply to ‘person’s unknown’, as well as six named defendants.
Human rights campaigners have argued against the use of ‘persons unknown’ injunctions by onshore oil and gas companies. They said the orders could have a chilling effect on protest and freedom of speech. People could be caught by an injunction without knowing the terms applied to them, they said.
A judge at the High Court recently refused to allow the continuation of an interim ‘persons unknown’ injunction, granted to the high end fashion firm, Canada Goose.
The ruling said:
“The justification for any order against ‘persons unknown’ in this case could only be made out if the ‘protestors’ could properly be regarded as a homogenous unit, all of whom are guilty of, or complicit in, the wrongful acts about which complaint is made.
“Once this proposition is rejected – as it must be – in favour of an assessment of the alleged wrongdoing of each protestor separately, the Claimants’ claim simply disintegrates.”
Canada Goose appealed against the ruling during two days of hearings last week. The appeal court decision has been reserved.
Timing and definitions
The revised Cuadrilla order stated that the injunction, the latest in a series of interim orders granted to the company since 2014, would go to trial on 1 June 2020 or it would continue until the court approved a further order.
It also defined the Cuadrilla land as the area to the north of a blue line painted on the ground in the site entrance, up to and beyond the gates.
Other oil and gas injunctions
The scaling back of Cuadrilla injunction could have implications for injunctions granted to other oil and gas companies.
The interim injunction granted to UK Oil & Gas is going to trial to decide whether it should be made permanent. The hearing is expected late this year or early next year. Similar injunctions have also been granted to IGas and Angus Energy.