Campaigners’ challenge to ‘draconian’ injunction reaches Court of Appeal

Environmental campaigner Joe Corre, Credit: PA

Environmental and human rights campaigners will take their fight against a “draconian” injunction granted to energy giant Ineos to the Court of Appeal.

In November 2017, a High Court judge continued a previously granted order prohibiting unlawful activities, such as trespass or obstruction, by “persons unknown” at the company’s shale gas sites.

Ineos say the injunction is intended to “prohibit unlawful activities on private and public land” and not “injunct lawful activity”.

But opponents claim it is “unprecedented and wide-ranging” and argue that it has had “a very serious chilling effect on lawful and legitimate protest activities”.

At the Court of Appeal in London on Tuesday, campaigners Joe Boyd and Joe Corre will attempt to overturn the injunction, supported by environmental campaign group Friends of the Earth.

In a statement ahead of the hearing, Mr Corre said: “If we win at the Court of Appeal, it will be another major blow to the fracking industry.”

He added: “I’m quite used to going to court these days. We’re in this kind of war against a fracking industry that knows it’s on its way out but is clinging on as long as it can.

“What the industry has done is put the frighteners on people and curbed their right to peacefully protest.”

Mr Corre pointed out that oil and gas firms Cuadrilla, UK Oil and Gas, Angus Energy and IGas have all since obtained similar High Court injunctions.

In written submissions before the court, his legal team will argue that if Ineos’s injunction was upheld that it was “likely to become the default position in protest cases”.

Friends of the Earth’s head of political affairs Dave Timms said the group intervened “because private oil and gas companies want to limit the public’s hard-fought-for right to peaceful protest”.

He added: “These draconian injunctions create a climate of fear where people taking lawful protest are uncertain about whether their actions could breach an injunction with the risk of imprisonment or having their assets seized.

“They put decisions about public order policing into the hands of the oil and gas industry with their army of corporate lawyers and private security firms.”

Granting the injunction in 2017, Mr Justice Morgan found that there was “an imminent and real risk that, in the absence of injunctions, the defendants will interfere with the legal rights of the claimants”.

He added: “Ineos’s business activities are lawful. The defendants wish Ineos to stop carrying on those activities and wish to put pressure on Ineos to stop.

“However, on my findings in this judgment, the defendants’ means of putting pressure on Ineos involve unlawful behaviour on their part, including criminal acts.”

Tom Pickering, operations director of Ineos Shale said, “We have a duty to ensure the safety of everyone on and around our sites.

“With these injunctions in place we have not been subjected to the kind of dangerous direct action carried out by militant activists against other shale gas operators.

“The court has already rejected many of the challenges raised by shale activists. We look forward to assisting the court in any way we can.”