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