The oil company, UKOG, has listed 116 extra people who it says should be covered by a High Court injunction granted against protests at its drilling sites.
Less than a quarter of the new people have been identified by name. The rest have been described from images.
The oldest images date back more than five years. Two-thirds of the individuals on the list were identified or described from images recorded on a single date in 2018.
Of the 26 individuals who have been named, more than a quarter of the identifications were qualified by phrases such as “believed to be”. Two of the names were said to have been provided by police. At least two names appear to have been misspelt.
The list is a response to new guidance this month from the Court of Appeal following a landmark case involving the high-end clothing company, Canada Goose. The appeal court judges said companies must identify specific people – at least by description – against whom they seek an injunction.
UKOG’s existing injunction, granted in 2018, covers several classes of “persons unknown”, as well as nine individuals and the campaign organisation, Friends of the Earth.
Now the company will ask the High Court, at a hearing due next month, to extend the injunction to a total of 132 defendants.
In a document posted on its website, the company said:
“UKOG has tried, thus far, not to single out individual unlawful protestors, but rather to proceed against persons unknown. However, the law has developed in such a way that they now have no choice but to do so.”
A company said it had identified 116 individuals who were not already named defendants to the injunctions. A spokesperson said:
“UKOG’s lawyers have sought to identify defendants by name or to identify them by reference to video or body-camera footage and give them a pseudonym if necessary.
UKOG said the people on the new list had been:
“directly involved in unlawful direct action in the past and who UKOG therefore reasonably fear might do so again if not restrained by injunction”.
The new people are listed on a schedule, downloadable from UKOG’s website, which has been submitted to the High Court.
Analysis of the schedule by DrillOrDrop shows:
- 93 of the individuals were not identified by name
- 7 of the 26 people who were named were qualified with phrases including “believed to be”, “possibly”, “known as” or “understood to be”
- 62 of the individuals were said to be men; 52 were women
- 6 individuals were not described as men or women
The descriptions of 93 people were from images on social and mainstream media. Most of the descriptions were of an individual’s gender, clothing and hair style or colour.
“Woman in knee length green dress and straw hat”
“Woman in navy strap top with curly mouse coloured hair with navy bow”
“Man with green joggers, black jacket/hoody, red coloured boots”
“Man on right in black/navy hoody, jeans, wellington boots, with dark medium length hair”
“Man with large white beard, navy blue jumper and beige gillet, black trousers and brown scarp wrapped as a hat.”
“Middle aged man on left with no beard wearing hat with tartan print, black fleece and high viz jacket”
“Various individuals as shown in BBC footage including woman in red t-shirt and beige pullover hoody, brown hair tied back.”
52 of those on the list were said to have taken part in slow walking, which UKOG described as an “unlawful act”.
Slow walking is a widely used technique in protests against fracking and the onshore oil and gas industry, where opponents seek to delay deliveries by walking slowly in front of vehicles.
It has been tolerated, or even facilitated, by some police forces. The criminal courts have acquitted many people charged with obstruction involving slow walking protests. The Court of Appeal struck out sections of the Ineos injunction relating to slow walking.
Other individuals on the schedule were accused by UKOG of protests involving:
- Lock-ons (12)
- Trespass (36)
- Obstruction (79)
- Breaking down gate (3)
- Climbing onto vehicles (5)
These figures add up to more than 116 because some individuals have been accused of more than one alleged unlawful act.
Dates and places
Almost all the images used in the schedule to identify or describe people were taken on 12 dates between 22 October 2014 and 10 December 2019.
Of the 116 new people on the list:
- 76 were identified or described from images taken on a single date: 20 August 2018
- 112 were identified or described from images taken before Mr Justice Male granted UKOG’s interim injunction on 3 September 2018.
- 11 were identified from images for which there was no precise date
- 3 were listed based on images taken in 2014
- 112 were identified from images taken at Horse Hill in Surrey, 4 from Broadford Bridge in West Sussex and 1 at Pease Pottage services
UKOG’s web statement said:
“If you have taken part in direct action against UKOG’s activities at either its Horse Hill or Broadford Bridge sites then you may have been identified as an additional defendant and a court order may be made against you. You should consider the documentation, including a photographic schedule, carefully.”
The company said:
“UKOG will, in appropriate cases, offer terms that will provide protection against adverse costs orders in return for undertakings not to engage in certain unlawful activities going forward.”
Asked by DrillOrDrop what the unlawful acts comprised, UKOG said:
- Entering or remaining on the Horse Hill site Surrey or Broadford Bridge site in West Sussex
- Blocking the public highway with the effect of slowing down or stopping traffic with the intention of causing inconvenience and delay
- Walking in front of vehicles driven by a servant of UKOG or its contractors
- Climbing onto vehicles
- Obstructing the highway at site entrances
A company spokesperson said:
“The above activities are unlawful in that they constitute an unlawful interference with the claimants’ activities at its Horse Hill and Broadford Bridge sites. They are also currently prohibited by the interim injunction order.”
Asked what would happen if people gave an undertaking but did not follow it, the spokesperson said:
“An undertaking is a promise made by one party to the court. It has the same effect as a court order and there may be serious consequences if breached. An undertaking is not an admission of liability, it is simply a promise to the court not to behave in a certain way in the future.”
Canada Goose and UKOG trial
The High Court refused Canada Goose’s request for a “persons unknown” injunction against animal rights protesters in November 2019. An appeal was rejected earlier this month.
In the light of the High Court judgement in Canada Goose, UKOG said it was directed to make an application to add additional defendants.
A hearing is now scheduled to add the new names and descriptions on 2 April 2020 before Chief Master Marsh.
DrillOrDrop asked UKOG about the impact of coronavirus on the court hearing. A company spokesperson said:
“This is a matter that is out of our hands. We have absolutely no idea what the court will do, but whatever the courts do decide to do, we will abide by it. I am sure that HM Courts and Tribunals Service is, as we speak, preparing contingency plans, but all we can do is to take each day as it comes.”
The spokesperson said UKOG had served people on the list by Facebook, Twitter, hand-delivered copies, a press release and online storage service – all permitted by the court.
UKOG’s current interim injunction is due to go to a trial late this year or early in 2021 to decide whether it should be made permanent.
That hearing is listed for 10 days but it may have to be longer if large numbers of extra defendants are added to the case. Asked how the court would deal with the unnamed defendants, the spokesperson said:
“The latest legal authorities advise claimants to identify all defendants to be bound by a final injunction order. This includes incidents committed prior to the date of the interim injunction. It will be for the court to decide whether those individuals should be identified in a final injunction order.
“We do not yet know how the court will deal with those on the list who are unnamed as there is no established authority by the courts. However, the claimants are following the latest guidance set by the Court of Appeal and it will be for the trial judge in this case to decide how those individuals are to be dealt with.”