A temporary injunction against protests granted to an oil company could be made permanent within weeks – but in a radically-reduced form from the original.
UK Oil & Gas is going to trial at the High Court at the end of June to try to finalise its interim injunction.
Since the injunction was first granted in March 2018, many key parts have been removed. The company agreed to the largest changes earlier this year. DrillOrDrop report
The latest scaled-back version applies just to:
- A few named individuals
- The Horse Hill oil site in Surrey
- Protests involving trespass, climbing onto vehicles of named contractors, and obstructing vehicle access and exit through the site entrance
Early versions had been described as the “most expansive” of all the interim injunctions granted to UK onshore oil and gas companies.
Like other protest injunctions, the orders applied to persons unknown who carried out specified acts. This was controversial because, it was argued, people may not know whether they had breached the injunction terms.
Five women from Sussex and Surrey decided to challenge UKOG and have pursued the company in the courts for the past three years.
The final version, if granted, would not cover persons unknown. Last year, judges hearing a case brought by the fashion retailer, Canada Goose, ruled that final injunctions could not be granted in protest cases against persons unknown.
After the Canada Goose case, UKOG sought to add 116 individuals to the injunction. Analysis by DrillOrDrop showed that 93 of these people were not identified by name but by image or description. Of the 26 who were named, 7 were qualified with the phrase “believed to be” or “known as”. Campaigners said some of the individuals were duplicates.
The final list of defendants has now been reduced to a handful of people. They can challenge the injunction at trial.
Previous versions of the injunction order included UKOG sites at Markwells Wood and Broadford Bridge in West Sussex and the company’s headquarters in Guildford.
The previous terms also outlawed “gathering and loitering”, “watching and besetting” the company and its contractors, as well as combining together for protest actions, protests against the supply chain and actions including slow walking on the public highway. These have all been dropped from the latest version.
The trial is due to go ahead on two days on or after 29 June 2021. The five women from Sussex and Surrey, who were supported by Weald Action Group, are not expected to take part. They said the injunction had changed in the ways they wanted because of what they described as UKOG’s “massive climb down” and the ruling on persons unknown .
“If we, and others, had not turned up at the High Court in March 2018 and put ourselves forward as named defendants, the injunction could have remained unchallenged.”
A hearing at the commercial court this morning was told that four of the people added to the injunction by UKOG had been removed from the case after reaching an agreement with the court.
The court also heard that UKOG may choose to apply for a default order to avoid the need for a full trial, if no one contested the final version.
DrillOrDrop has reported more than 12 days of court hearings on the UKOG case. It is the first of several UK onshore oil and gas protest injunctions to go to trial. Others granted to Cuadrilla, Ineos, IGas, Europa Oil & Gas and Angus Energy remained interim.