Legal

Judge “radically scales back” UKOG protest injunction

A High Court judge has approved major cuts to one of England’s widest-ranging injunctions against protests at oil and gas sites.

Horse Hill fossil fuel protest, 3 August 2020. Photo: Extinction Rebellion South East

In a remote hearing today, Mrs Justice Falk reduced the scope and impact of the interim injunction first granted to UK Oil & Gas plc (UKOG) in 2018.

Opponents had previously described the injunction terms as “draconian, oppressive and unjustified”. Judge Falk said the revised order had been “radically scaled back” on earlier versions.

It now applies only to a handful of named people instead of the 100+ previously listed by UKOG. It covers only the Horse Hill oil site in Surrey and no longer to UKOG’s Broadford Bridge site in West Sussex or the company’s Guildford headquarters.

UKOG has dropped a prohibition on slow walking protests, where campaigners seek to delay delivery vehicles entering the site by walking slowly in front.

Campaigners can protest in parts of the Horse Hill entrance, known as the bellmouth, without breaching the injunction if they do not obstruct access to or from the site, the court said.

The injunction continues to outlaw trespass on the site, obstruction of the entrance and lorry surfing, where protesters climb onto vehicles to disrupt operations. People found to be in breach of an injunction can be fined, sent to prison or have their assets seized.

DrillOrDrop reported last week that UKOG was seeking permission from the court to make these changes. The company’s opponents said these revisions had been sought by some campaigners nearly two years ago.

Approving the changes, Judge Falk said she had to balance the rights of campaigners to freedom of speech and assembly against UKOG’s private rights. She said there was a sufficient real and imminent risk to justify the continuation of the interim injunction.

She told the court:

“Applying the fair balance approach, I think the injunction in the revised form is appropriate.”

UKOG had argued that it was not seeking to prevent people from protesting lawfully. But its barrister, Timothy Polli QC, said:

“These protests are costing us money.”

“We have consistently said we are not trying to clobber people. We want it [these protests] to stop.”

Stephanie Harrison QC, for five women who had challenged the injunction in the courts for two-and-a-half years, said her clients had been “vindicated by the concessions now made by UKOG”.

She described earlier versions of the order as “excessive” affecting the fundamental rights of a “wider range of environmental campaigning groups and individuals”.

The injunction had now been “radically scaled back”, she said, to an orthodox injunction relating to private land and not over the public highway.

The original version was solely against “persons unknown”. It included a ban on people standing in exclusion zones on roads outside site entrances, taking photographs of contractors or combining together using lawful means to injure UKOG’s economic interests.

Since then, the courts have several times reduced the scope of UKOG’s injunction and those granted to other companies.

Trial date brought forward

At today’s hearing, Judge Falk also ordered an earlier date for a hearing to decide whether the interim injunction should be made final.

An eight-day trial had been scheduled for February 2022.

This has now been reduced to two days from June-October 2021. Judge Falk said the interim injunction should end by 31 October 2021 at the latest.

If the injunction is made final, it will mean that UKOG’s order can no longer apply to “persons unknown”.

Last year, the Court of Appeal ruled in a case involving the fashion chain Canada Goose that injunctions against persons unknown should be for limited periods only. This would be to enable the claimant to identify those against whom to bring a case for a final injunction. The appeal court said there should be no final protest injunctions against persons unknown.

Alias Facebook accounts barred

Judge Falk further ordered UKOG not to use alias Facebook accounts to give information about the injunction to protesters.

The company admitted that a security officer using a false name had sent messages to environmental campaigners.

Mrs Justice Falk told the court:

“I am not comfortable with the use of aliases.

“I do not think fake names are the right way to do this.”

She said the use of false names appeared to be against Facebook conditions. She said in future:

“Any service by Facebook has to be by direct message to individuals and not from an alias.”

Opponents of UKOG’s activities had strongly criticised the use of Facebook to give information about the injunction. Some people reported that messages and the Facebook account in the name of Richard Hill had disappeared after information was posted. There were also concerns that the information could be spam.

UKOG denied the accounts were fake and defended the use of the aliases. Mr Polli said security staff typically used aliases and it was not “improper”. Messages could not have been construed as fake, he said. They included the UKOG logo and said they contained important information. He said some individuals had been “trying to make themselves unserviceable”.

The judge also said it would helpful for UKOG to notify previous defendents that they would not be pursued. She said up-to-date notices should be displayed at Horse Hill and on UKOG’s website.

UKOG said it would not be seeking costs against any parties in the legal action.

Update

In a statement on 10 February 2021, UKOG welcomed the judge’s review of the injunction and her decision that it was justified.

The company’s chief executive, Stephen Sanderson, said:

“UKOG has never sought to obstruct any peaceful protest, or curb the right to freedom of expression, solely to restrain unlawful activities that impede its staff’s right to go about their lawful business.

“This ruling now makes it clear that acts of trespass, obstruction of the site’s entrance and vehicle surfing do not constitute lawful protest under the right to freedom of expression. We trust that protesters will abide by this ruling.”

The statement confirmed that two members of Extinction Rebellion who took part in a protest in October 2020 had offered undertakings to abide by the terms of the injunction in return for UKOG not pursuing legal action for a breach of the injunction. Another six Extinction Rebellion members were named on the injunction.

Weald Action Group, which has supported the long-running legal challenge to the injunction, welcomed the judge’s decisions. In a statement today, the group said:

“When this injunction was served in its original format in March 2018, it included a clause to prevent campaigners ‘combining together using by lawful means’ – acts that could potentially affect the company’s ‘economic interests’.

“It also prevented campaigners ‘watching’ people. It was a shocking attack by UKOG on our right to freedom of association and the right to protest, as they clearly sought to prevent these wholly lawful acts.  This was a breach of the Human Rights Act and its sweeping powers were draconian and anti-democratic.

“It has been a costly exercise for UKOG to finally concede to this new scaled back order, which is what our solicitors proposed to them back in May 2019.

“We welcome the time limit for a final injunction in the Judge’s ruling yesterday, which ensures the Persons Unknown element will be removed by November this year at the very latest. In addition UKOG, their solicitors and security company are now no longer able to create “fake” alias Facebook profiles to serve their papers to campaigners.”

6 replies »

  1. What are your Clothes , Banner and Hi-Viz made from, and how did you get to you protest Anti’s? Death Car, Death Van, Death Train or Death motorcycle? 🤨

    • Eli-Goth: Do you have x-ray vision? And do those views and statements relate to the views of a Ecocidal Death Cult in a communist country? Reads like?!?

      Oh Dear? Its the Milankovitch cycle all over again isn’t it?

      I see the usual hypocrisy that seeks to condemn the use of fossil fuel products but still advocates further exploration and extraction, still pervades in the deepest darkest recesses of the fossil fuel void.

      Oops!

      Do you breathe clean air?

      Do you drink clean water?

      Do you eat uncontaminated food?

      Without those Sun given elements, no life can exist.

      Oops!

      Every living creature needs a clean unpolluted environment to exist at all. But we are in the sixth major extinction event in the history of the planet Earth. The rapidity of this ecocidal collapse has never before occurred, previous extinction events have taken millions of years to take hold, and millions further to recover.

      The 4th extinction event was in the Great Permian/Triassic Extinction Event timeline of 252 million years ago, was a natural event due to several possible causes, one of which was the Siberian Traps, a volcanic hot spot which polluted the entire atmosphere and created a global warming event that destroyed 9 out of 10 (90%) of all species on the planet at the time.

      The Great Permian Extinction: When all life on Earth almost vanished
      http://www.eartharchives.org/articles/the-great-permian-extinction-when-all-life-on-earth-almost-vanished/

      High-precision timeline for Earth’s most severe extinction
      https://www.pnas.org/content/111/9/3316

      The most recent and 5th extinction event (that caused the extinction of 80% of all life on the planet and the extinction of the dinosaurs) was 66 million years ago , and was the K-T Event at the the end of the Cretaceous/Paleogene/Tertiary. That was caused, judging from fossil and geological records, by a major asteroid impact (amongst smaller impacts at the same time) at the the Yucatan Peninsula near Chicxulub in the Gulf of Mexico. The resulting crater is still visible beneath the Gulf of Mexico waters. Even that event took about 10,000 years to take its full effect on life on Earth, dependent upon location and distance from the event. It took many more millions of years for life on Earth to recover. The human race may well be part of that recovery, as are all mammalian life.

      The Cretaceous-Paleogene Extinction Event
      https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/the-cretaceous-paleogene-extinction-event.html

      The human race has precipitated this latest sixth extinction event in just a few hundred years, and that is totally unprecedented in the history of planet Earth. Not to mention the apparent greed and power ridden insane Death Cult genocidal attitude of certain factions within the so called civilisations throughout history.

      In fact it is those extinction events that have undoubtedly caused the resulting dead organic matter that has caused the fossil fuel deposits to exist at all in planet Earth. And that memory and legacy should remain as a lesson to us all, not be dredged up for greed and profit.

      So what has the legacy of the use of hundreds of years of fossil fuels dredged up from millions of years old flora fauna and minerals given us?

      The sixth major extinction event of all life on planet Earth.

      Air pollution from fossil fuels ‘responsible for one in five deaths worldwide’
      https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/uknews/air-pollution-from-fossil-fuels-e2-80-98responsible-for-one-in-five-deaths-worldwide-e2-80-99/ar-BB1dwp9Z

      Fossil fuel air pollution blamed for 1 in 5 deaths worldwide each year
      https://www.msn.com/en-us/weather/top stories/fossil-fuel-air-pollution-blamed-for-1-in-5-deaths-worldwide-each-year/ar-BB1dxhUL

      Air pollution from fossil fuel emissions responsible for 1 in 5 premature deaths: Harvard report
      https://www.cnbc.com/2021/02/09/fossil-fuel-emissions-cause-1-in-5-deaths-globally-report.html

      Perhaps this latest pandemic situation could well be closely attributed to the very sixth extinction event that has been caused by our continued use of fossil fuels, as the effect is the decimation of animal life populations driving them into fight or flight syndrome, which is a well known immunological response damaging cause of disease and that draws the them closer to human beings because of the destruction of their natural environments. So in spite of all the evidence of the dangers of continuation of the use of polluting fossil fuels and 1 in five deaths being related to fossil fuel pollution amongst human beings, let alone wildlife. That further exploration and extraction of fossil fuels is still advocated in spite of all the evidence of how much of this sixth extinction is attributable to fossil fuel use alone.

      Time to grow up and find a more intelligent way to exist in close harmony with the planets ecosystems.

      Not destroy everything and everyone for insane greed and profit for the few at the expense of the many.

      By all accounts and from the present situation regarding all life on Earth, we wont get a second chance.

      Have a Nice Day. There may not be many days left to….

      Enjoy!

      Enjoy!

      [Corrections at poster’s request]

    • Happy to agree with you if your point is that we don’t need more plastic in the world, but plastic is a side issue at Horse Hill, it doesn’t produce ethylene which is what the vast majority of plastic is made from. The oil is sold on the international market and then mostly used for transport, producing a massive quantity of greenhouse gas, and that is driving runaway climate change.

      There are alternative ways to make plastic too. Biobased plastics come from renewable products such as carbohydrates, starch, vegetable fats and oils. Recycling existing plastic would also mean we don’t need to produce new plastic, we currently recycle less than 10% of what we produce.

      FYI the banner is made from canvas, but activists aren’t going to wait for biobased hi viz vests to become available before they are back out on the road at Horse Hill.

      • You forget to mention that transport use of fossil fuel ALSO includes the use by agriculture. Red diesel, on farm, in UK. That little industry that keeps us all fed. Humanity would die out a lot quicker without food, than due to climate change. Yes, UK could use other systems but it does not for very good reasons.

        Of course, we could stop trucking courgettes from Spain to UK. That would be a good move-as would be to stop shipping so much oil from Nigeria to UK, “producing a massive quantity of greenhouse gas, and that is driving runaway climate change”. Goodness, UK might have had an even colder January (coldest in last 10 years) if that had been sorted! Good for UKOG trying to reduce that massive amount of greenhouse gas. Shame on the antis who travel to HH and undo some of that contribution, and add to it by requiring the police to do the same.

        And the banners? “Fossil fuel=death”. Try telling that to those awaiting rescue and rebuilding following a natural disaster. Then fossil fuel=life, and a future.

        “Back out on the road” Not an advocate of mud tracks?

        Hmm. Use the output from fossil fuel to moan about what? Fossil fuel! Sounds familiar. Back on the road, or the plastic keyboard. Like the small minorities who buy a season ticket to the footie just so they can spend their time moaning about the game!

        Interesting messaging being used. Obviously aimed at those who do not want to think too much around the subject.

      • One crisp winter morning in Sweden, a cute little girl named Greta woke up to a perfect world, one where there were no petroleum products ruining the earth. She tossed aside her cotton sheet and wool blanket and stepped out onto a dirt floor covered with willow bark that had been pulverized with rocks. “What’s this?” she asked.
        “Pulverized willow bark,” replied her fairy godmother.
        “What happened to the carpet?” she asked.
        “The carpet was nylon, which is made from butadiene and hydrogen cyanide, both made from petroleum,” came the response.
        Greta smiled, acknowledging that adjustments are necessary to save the planet, and moved to the sink to brush her teeth where instead of a toothbrush, she found a willow, mangled on one end to expose wood fibre bristles.
        “Your old toothbrush?” noted her godmother, “Also nylon.”
        “Where’s the water?” asked Greta.
        “Down the road in the canal,” replied her godmother, ‘Just make sure you avoid water with cholera in it”
        “Why’s there no running water?” Greta asked, becoming a little peevish.
        “Well,” said her godmother, who happened to teach engineering at MIT, “Where do we begin?” There followed a long monologue about how sink valves need elastomer seats and how copper pipes contain copper, which has to be mined and how it’s impossible to make all-electric earth-moving equipment with no gear lubrication or tires and how ore has to be smelted to a make metal, and that’s tough to do with only electricity as a source of heat, and even if you use only electricity, the wires need insulation, which is petroleum-based, and though most of Sweden’s energy is produced in an environmentally friendly way because of hydro and nuclear, if you do a mass and energy balance around the whole system, you still need lots of petroleum products like lubricants and nylon and rubber for tires and asphalt for filling potholes and wax and iPhone plastic and elastic to hold your underwear up while operating a copper smelting furnace and . . .
        “What’s for breakfast?” interjected Greta, whose head was hurting.
        “Fresh, range-fed chicken eggs,” replied her godmother. “Raw.”
        “How so, raw?” inquired Greta.
        “Well, . . .” And once again, Greta was told about the need for petroleum products like transformer oil and scores of petroleum products essential for producing metals for frying pans and in the end was educated about how you can’t have a petroleum-free world and then cook eggs. Unless you rip your front fence up and start a fire and carefully cook your egg in an orange peel like you do in Boy Scouts. Not that you can find oranges in Sweden anymore.
        “But I want poached eggs like my Aunt Tilda makes,” lamented Greta.

        “Tilda died this morning,” the godmother explained. “Bacterial pneumonia.”
        “What?!” interjected Greta. “No one dies of bacterial pneumonia! We have penicillin.”
        “Not anymore,” explained godmother “The production of penicillin requires chemical extraction using isobutyl acetate, which, if you know your organic chemistry, is petroleum-based. Lots of people are dying, which is problematic because there’s not any easy way of disposing of the bodies since backhoes need hydraulic oil and crematoriums can’t really burn many bodies using as fuel Swedish fences and furniture, which are rapidly disappearing – being used on the black market for roasting eggs and staying warm.”
        This represents only a fraction of Greta’s day, a day without microphones to exclaim into and a day without much food, and a day without carbon-fibre boats to sail in, but a day that will save the planet.
        Tune in tomorrow when Greta needs a root canal and learns how Novocain is synthesized.

        Good Evening!, 🌒

  2. “Judge maintains UKOG injunction.”

    Much more accurate.

    As no one should be travelling, except for essential workers, it is all academic. However, good old UKOG NOT seeking costs, and NOT chasing previous defendants, shows how responsible they are. Try doing the same activities at many sites producing oil that is currently imported into the UK and that level of responsibility unlikely to be seen. So, another reason why high UK standards should operate for oil used within the UK!

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