Legal

UKOG injunction accused of “bullying” and “breach of right to protest”

191026 HH Banners 2 DoD

Horse Hill protest rally. 26 October 2019. Photo: DrillOrDrop

A group of campaigners will argue at the High Court tomorrow (2/4/2020) that an oil company’s injunction against protest is “unlawful, unfair and breaches the rights to free speech”.

Local residents and campaign groups have asked the court to quash the interim injunction, granted to UK Oil & Gas plc (UKOG) more than 18 months ago.

The injunction outlaws specific types of protest at the company’s sites at Horse Hill in Surrey and Broadford Bridge in West Sussex.

DrillOrDrop reported last month that UKOG had also applied to the court for the injunction to cover another 116 people.

But the Weald Action Group, a network of campaigners in south east England, said it would give evidence to the court that UKOG’s approach had been flawed:

“UKOG should start again using the correct legal processes, especially given judgements in other recent injunction cases which say that the approach UKOG has used is unlawful, unfair and breaches the right to free speech and to protest about the effects on climate change and environmental damage of fossil fuel extraction.”

Five members of the group, who volunteered to be defendants in the case, said UKOG’s agents had failed to identify properly most of the additional 116 people.

The company also failed to notify the new people, except for short-lived messages sent to Facebook pages administered by campaign groups, they said.

They will argue that the list of extra people contained:

  • Duplicates
  • People wrongly identified
  • People who have taken part in peaceful protest that did not breach the injunction
  • People who had never been near UKOG’s sites in Surrey and Sussex
  • People who protested four or more years ago

Submissions have been sent to the court from administrators of Facebook pages, the defendants said, asking not to be targeted for the service of legal documents.

Ann Stewart and Emily Mott, of Markwells Wood Watch in West Sussex, said:

“It can be very worrying to receive such a notice and the implication is that we take part in, and support, unlawful activities. This is not the case”.

191229 Faith at the Gate Horse Hill

Faith at the Gate event at Horse Hill, 29 December 2019. Photo: Faith at the Gate

A local priest has said organisers of peaceful protests, like Faith at the Gate events at Horse Hill, also felt targeted. The Rev Helen Burnett, vicar of St Peter and St Paul’s Church at Chaldon, in Surrey, said:

“I am shocked that peaceful events and organisations have had their data acquired from social media, which is in itself a bullying tactic to frighten peaceful citizens from expressing their heartfelt moral opposition to the drilling at Horse Hill.”

Lucy Barford, from Dorking, said local residents concerned about climate change did not feel able to protest because the injunction was unclear about what was acceptable. She said:

“As a full-time parent to two young children, I simply cannot risk accidentally breaching the injunction when the penalties can include a custodial sentence, so I feel as if my right to peacefully protest has been taken away”.

UKOG was directed by the court to add the extra people to the injunction, rather than continue to refer to “persons unknown” carrying out specific acts. This followed a court ruling against a “persons unknown” injunction sought by the retailer, Canada Goose. More details here

A UKOG spokesperson said the company had served people with court documents by Facebook, Twitter, hand-delivered copies and a press release. All these approaches had been permitted by the court, the spokesperson said.

A trial in December 2020 or January 2021 will decide whether the UKOG interim injunction should be made final.

Yesterday, the company’s most recent accounts said the final injunction orders would seek to restrain trespass, obstructing its sites, blocking the public highway, slow walking, standing in front of vehicles, climbing onto vehicles or trailers or attaching themselves to equipment. 

The accounts said:

“The orders will be limited to what is necessary to protect UKOG’s lawful business and to prevent unlawful protest and trespass.

UKOG will continue to take whatever action may be necessary to protect itself against unlawful protest activity and trespass at its operating sites. It will continue to recognise and support the right of lawful protest as a fundamental human right.” 

  • Tomorrow’s case (2/4/2020) is due to be heard by Chief Master Marsh at 10.30am. DrillOrDrop understands the hearing will be conducted over Skype. We have asked for access to report the hearing. Cases at the High Court are usually listed here from about 4pm on the day before.

10 replies »

  1. If the protesting was ‘peaceful’ then a court would never have granted an injunction. By definition there cannot be an objection to ‘peaceful’ activity. However, the actions of the protest impinge on the rights and freedoms of the local residents, users of the public road and the business to carry out legal and approved activities. That impinging casts the ‘peaceful’ into non-peaceful because it impacts on the other side. And this is where the campaigners of a myriad of campaigns on practically every issue going always hit the wall. The existence of a campaign group doesn’t confer that their argument must be correct. How about 200 hundred UKOG supporters block the roads around the protestors’ homes or supermarkets (stopping all those nasty gas guzzling 4x4s so many of them drive) and stopping them from panic buying loo rolls? Legal? No, the loo roll huggers would rightly obtain an injunction allowing the freedom to panic buy the loo rolls without impediment from UKOG supporters. If the campaigners want to keep handing over ever larger sums of money to those who encourage the court action and advocate for them – at a price, then let them. Might stop them panic buying the loo roll and leave some for the rest of us.

    • Boris sent me two, today, Colombo! Paid for out of UK taxation. Might have received a few more if more UK on shore oil was being produced and taxation gathered.

      “Alternatively”, for the protestors glued or locked on, there is Tena! (That should be enough to achieve a full injunction, on health and safety grounds.)

        • Well, John, it was April 1st!

          Your doubts are interesting. You obviously have not even bothered to check out the number of shares in issue and the proportions of them held by small investors. There is a bit of a problem with that regarding share holder influence over the BoD, but that is another matter.

          Huge numbers of them, jP! Probably quite a few on IOW.

          At least Jono bothers to look at what is going on with UKOG. Comes to the wrong conclusion most of the time, but does make an effort.

          (By the way, oil price up, UKOG following this am. Doesn’t make a lot of sense to me either, as UKOG fundamentals are the FUTURE not the current. Perhaps end of ISA year and cash from Anglo American to some Sirius holders is more of an influence?)

  2. The funny thing here is that nobody say they don’t have a right to demonstrate.

    Not that they don’t have a right to demonstrate.

    The question is where & when they can demonstrate & are they going to be allowed to disrupt a business going about it’s law abiding buisness on a daily basis & how often.

    There are no regulations or responsibilities on demonstration or there organizers or individual demonstators.

    I think that all demonstration organizations should be registered with demonstators as members with identification.

    This would stop the extreme fringes & give accountability.

    But I’m sure the demonstators who have another agenda with not want any of this peaceful protest.

    • The injunction outlaws specific types of protest at the company’s sites at Horse Hill in Surrey and Broadford Bridge in West Sussex.

      Drill or drop.

      Read your own words?

      This injunction in no way seeks to stop a peaceful protest & this protest can happen anywhere apart from at the listed company sites.

      Who do you think they are protesting to? The company who has been granted the legal right to carry out there business.

      Obviously confrontational especially when it disrupts the business & the company has a duty to protect it’s business & shareholders.

      Maybe the company should seek damages against the named people for there actions if a breach occurs?

      My perspective is that this is bulling by the protesters as the company has the right to go about it lawfully business. The fact here is that certain individuals don’t want to accept the statutory law.

  3. When you get demonstrators being deliberately “excited” to protest against something that isn’t even being done, or has no connection to individual sites where that protest takes place, how do you identify those who seek to protest peacefully, yet are willing to accept such within their midst so readily?

    You only have to see how some groups proudly refer to “fracking” and use it for generation of support, although it is a direct and simple porkie. When the media showed that pretty convincingly the shrieks of “disapproval” just showed how accurate it was. And, of course, it also showed how some media are happy to join in as it makes a stronger story, in their eyes.

    The answer is to set an injunction that prevents certain types of protest, which the Courts can decide is disproportionate and unlawful. Not so easy, as slow walking could be adjusted to slow hopping! Suspect the end answer will be a broad classification of deliberate attempt to disrupt the legal activity of a business. Then any who want to protest know exactly where they stand, or lie, or sit, before they do so. If they wish to challenge the legality of the business then they could find other means to do that. That sort of separation would suit the Courts pretty well.

    Let’s see if that is where it ends up.

  4. “500 men and women defied the law and impinged on the then rights of landed Gentry.”
    Actually the right to roam already existed, they were not called public foot paths for nothing! The problem was that as the use of land has changed and the boundaries shifted, some paths were no longer ‘public’ and some were damaging the environment. But, protestors and campaigners can never see past their own selfish self-interest and lay claim to ownership of something that is not theirs. Indeed these rambler groups quite literally restrict access to large areas FOR THEIR OWN PRIVATE USE, under the guise of (piad) membership of this club or that club. Try freely roaming along some woods in Buxton without paying the NT toll. Same for the protestors at UKOG, they have assumed ownership of the land, village and highway and dictate that it may only be used for the purpose they intend for it.

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