UKOG abandons injunction on slow walking protests

UK Oil & Gas is scaling back the High Court injunction against protests at its sites.

Protests outside UKOG site at Broadford Bridge in West Sussex. Photo: Broadford Bridge Action Group

The company behind oil drilling in southern England said today it would ask the court to remove slow walking, a well-used protest tactic, from the injunction order, first issued nearly three years ago.

In a statement, UKOG said the revised interim injunction would apply soley to Horse Hill in Surrey and would cover only trespass and obstruction of the site entrance.

The announcement came just a week before campaigners were expecting to go to court to challenge the company over the injunction terms.

The Horse Hill site has seen a series of protests by environmental campaigners. UKOG said the injunction would help protect the company and would not “prevent or limit peaceful protest”.

On slow walking, UKOG said:

“Having considered the efficient manner in which recent slow-walks have been dealt with by local Surrey police, the Company now considers it best to allow the police to continue to deal with such incidents, especially as the current COVID-19 restrictions confer additional policing powers to deal with gatherings and unnecessary travel. The Company thus seeks to remove slow-walking from the Injunction.”

Opponents of the company’s activities have opposed the injunction since its application. At a hearing in July 2018, campaigners challenging the injunction described it as the most expansive so far sought by the onshore oil and gas industry industry and said it was based on “exaggerated and oppressive claims”.

People found guilty of breaching a High Court injunction could be found to be in contempt of court. The penalty could be prison, a fine or seizure of assets. So far, UKOG has not used the injunction against protesters at its sites.

Opponents of the injunction have said they will comment tomorrow on the announcement. See DrillOrDrop’s report here

Scaling back

If the High Court agrees to UKOG’s request, it will be the most recent limiting of the terms of the interim injunction.

The original application in March 2018 was brought against “persons unknown” and applied to Markwells Wood and Broadford Bridge in West Sussex, as well as Horse Hill. It also covered the company’s headquarters in Guildford.

Unlike previous oil and gas industry injunctions, it included a clause to prevent opponents “combining by lawful means” with the main intention of hurting the company’s economic interests.

Other prohibited activities included photographing employees and contractors and publishing negative comments about suppliers with the intention of targeting them in a campaign.

The injunction comprised 42 documents and more than 500 videos, with more than 900 pages of exhibits.

During a hearing at the High Court in July 2018, UKOG sought to outlaw slow walking, where campaigners walk slowly in front of delivery vehicles to disrupt the operation of a site. Tim Polli QC for UKOG said:

“the occupation of the highway is not reasonable. Slow walking is not reasonable. The conventional rights do not make it reasonable as it is obstructive and without authority. It is therefore wrongful.”

Since then, the High Court has twice limited the scope of the injunction but slow walking remained in the order.

In September 2018, Mr Justice Male, removed clauses outlawing watching or “besetting” sites or encouraging protest. He refused UKOG’s attempt to include causing damage, removing equipment, behaving in a threatening, intimidating or abusive manner or making abusive or threatening electronic communication. He also said the order should not apply to UKOG’s head office in Guildford.  Details

In May 2020, the High Court removed the prohibition on combining together to protest, “gathering and loitering” and actions against UKOG’s supply chain.

During a long legal challenge, campaigners also sought to apply the rulings of two other key cases. In April 2019, appeal court judges struck out the prohibition of protests on the highway, includingk slow walking, in an injunction granted to the shale gas company, Ineos Upstream. Nearly a year later, the appeal court upheld the refusal of an injunction against “persons’ unknown” sought by the fashion chain, Canada Goose.

A High Court trial is still expected in 2022. This will decide whether the interim injunction should be made final.

Lock-on protest at Horse Hill oil site in Surrey, 1 June 2020. Photo: Extinction Rebellion

Injunction timeline

6 March 2018

UKOG applies for wide-ranging injunction against protests at Broadford Bridge and Markwells Wood in West Sussex, and Horse Hill in Surrey and its offices in Guildford. Details

15 March 2018

Campaigners confirm they will challenge UKOG injunction. Details

17 March 2018

The human rights campaigner, Bianca Jagger, urges UKOG to withdraw its injunction. Details

19 March 2018

A group of residents, supported by environmental and political organisations, go to the High Court to challenge the UKOG injunction, arguing that it breaches human rights. Details

The High Court adjourns the case. Details

2 July 2018

Friends of the Earth seeks permission to join the case against UKOG’s injunction. Details

3 July 2018

At the High Court, UKOG defends its injunction to outlaw slow walking, which it describes as “unreasonable and wrongful”. Details

Green Party co-leader, Jonathan Bartley, backs campaigners seeking to overturned the injunction. Details

4 July 2018

Campaigners tell the High Court that the UKOG injunction is the most expansive so far sought by the industry but was based on “exaggerated and oppressive claims”. Details

5 July 2018

Mr Justice Male, who heard the case against the UKOG injunction, reserves judgement. Details

3 September 2018

In a ruling, High Court deputy judge, Mr Justice Male, curtails scope of UKOG interim injunction. Details

21 December 2018

Six women win the right to appeal against UKOG’s interim injunction. Details

3 April 2019

Appeal court judges rule that sections of an injunction granted to Ineos are unlawful. The ruling strikes out sections applying to protests on the public highway, including slow walking protests. Details

24 May 2019

UKOG tweets that the appeal against its interim injunction has been abandoned. Women campaigners say their points of principle have already succeeded in the Ineos case (see 3 April 2019). They say they will go back to the High Court so that the UKOG injunction can be scaled back. Details

30 September 2019

The High Court refuses a request by the fashion chain, Canada Goose, for a “person’s unknown injunction against animal rights protesters. Details

15 November 2019

Chief Master Marsh orders UKOG’s interim injunction should be examined at a full trial at the High Court. Details

17 December 2019

UKOG considers contempt of court against Horse Hill protesters. Details

5 March 2020

The Court of Appeal dismisses the appeal by Canada Goose against the refusal of its injunction application. Details

22 March 2020

UKOG seeks to add 116 people to its interim injunction. Less than a quarter of the new people are identified by name. The rest are described from images. Details

23 March 2020

Five women apply to the High Court to strike out the interim injunction. Details

2 April 2020

UKOG lawyers argue that the women should be barred from trying quash the interim injunction. Detail

9 April 2020

The women win the right to continue with their challenge to the interim injunction. Detail

Fake Facebook account allegedly used to send messages to people about changes to the interim injunction. Details

11 May 2020

High Court reduces the scope of the interim injunction. It removes prohibition of combining together to protest, “gathering and loitering” and actions against UKOG’s supply chain. Five women opposing the injunction say they are now aiming to strike out the whole order. Details


Expected trial of UKOG interim injunction

6 replies »

  1. So, the police are dealing with the slow walking, so tidy up the injunction.
    Seems reasonable, especially when individuals who are not essential workers, are not supposed to be making unnecessary journeys. Therefore, the police would currently have powers to act against them under Covid regulations.

  2. Remembering how the policing at PNR regularly depended upon Trades Union regulations brought in to control striking Miner’s activities.
    Wouldn’t it be convenient for restrictions brought in to keep us safe from Coronavirus to be used against persons protesting to keep us safe from the actions of the oil and gas industry?
    Free speech and related protest is our Democratic Right, unless of course it’s inconvenient for the UK Government and Establishment it would appear!

  3. Well, Peter, if you feel it okay for people to run the risk of spreading Covid, during a pandemic, that is your democratic right, like being anti vaccination, which you are, as well.

    However, the vast majority within our democratic system think that personal responsibility to protect others is more important-as the uptake of the vaccine is showing together with the large degree of compliance to the current regulations.
    HH is simply going to/trying to, replace some imported oil from places like Nigeria. So, maybe have a look at the oil and gas industry in Nigeria and compare to that in the UK. From a safety point of view, and an environmental one, I suggest the answer is pretty straight forward for those who can think and research. For those who can’t, or won’t, there is just no hope, and then the police are required. Ever thus.

    Democracy is not anarchy.

    • Martin Collyer Drill or drop & the protestors all seem very jubilant, but it looks a very hollow victory to me!

      Maybe the claim of far reaching & draconian injunction will still apply but not in the current form so be careful what you wish for as you may have got what you wished for but not what you wanted!

      Maybe we will see a new injunctions requests come before the courts to prevent the slow walking & hampering of the road network leading to oil sites but this time from the transportation companies not UKOG as the product transport is sub contracted to them & there responsibility!

      The Horse Hill UKOG injunction now covers the trespass on the site & the blocking of access though the site gates & lorry surfing which I believe is enough for UKOG’s purpose.

      Now that the new production transportation contracts are in place hopefully it should be for the oil delivery contractors to negotiate any requirements to do with the transportation of oil & if they need a injunction to uphold the services that they supply they can apply to the courts themselves?

      UKOG are only the product producer on site if the protestors are protesting against oil & petroleum products transportation on the national highway that is a different issue completely & there are national laws & securities covering this well regulated industry which I am sure will equally apply to petrol being safely delivered to a petrol stations & refineries.

      Why they should be protesting specifically about national petroleum products transportation specifically at Horse Hill is another issue?

      Let’s see if the transportation companies need to take out there own injunctions over the national highways but there responsibility is to ensure the safe transportation of products within costs.

      From memory the last time supplies & transportation of oil or petroleum products were hampered & the police did not have sufficient powers to control the situation the British army we brought in to ensure safe passage.

      • Actually, MH, I would suggest that attempts to disrupt HH, as and when Covid allows, offers the opportunity for the general public to view the nonsensical approach that it demonstrates. Why? Because the same general public will be out and about and can quite easily view the oil being shipped into the local refinery at Fawley ie. IMPORTED, and, if they wish, they can use their plastic keyboard and see where it has come from-and that will persist as an opportunity for many years to come.

        So, the attempts at disrupting local sources of supply may make a few happy, but it does nothing towards projecting a sensible approach, and that is probably not a bad thing for UKOG, and reduces the need for them to spend too much on PR.

  4. Peter, injunctions do not prevent anyone exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly under articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

    However the European Convention on Human Rights cannot be used as a right or excuse to commit a criminal offence or used as a shield to protect against prosecution after committing a criminal offence.

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