By Ruth Hayhurst at DrillorDrop.
The anti-fracking campaigner, Joe Corre, is to go to court next week to oppose an injunction brought by INEOS Upstream against shale gas protesters.
Corre, son of fashion designer, Dame Vivienne Westwood, said on 6 September:
“Someone has to stand up against these disgusting bully boy tactics”.
INEOS was granted an interim injunction by Mr Justice Morgan at a private, unannounced hearing on 31 July 2017 (DrillOrDrop report). It is seeking to make the order permanent at a hearing on Tuesday 12 September 2017 at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.
The injunction is the most wide-ranging of its kind secured by the shale industry. It is also the first issued pre-emptively before a company had planning permission to start drilling and where there is no campaign activity at any of its sites.
Joe Corre, who has opposed shale gas operations through the group Talk Fracking, said he had made submissions to INEOS lawyers, Fieldfisher, to object to the continuation of the order.
The interim injunction covered eight named locations, as well as company offices and property belonging to site landowners. It also applied to routes to proposed exploration sites and to activities by INEOS employees and firms in its supply chain, including any depots, equipment, people and operations.
A notice on the INEOS website said anyone who breached the order by “interfering with lawful activities” would be “held in contempt of court and may be imprisoned, fined or have your assets seized.”
Slow Walking Outlawed
The injunction specifically referred to so-called slow walking, where protesters attempt to delay deliveries by walking slowing in front of vehicles. Some courts have acquitted anti-fracking campaigners who have carried out this form of protest.
The order appeared to prevent the protest tactic of lorry-surfing, where campaigners climb on top of vehicles to slow down operations. It also included harassment of INEOS and third parties, offences under Section 241 of the Trades Union and Labour Relations Consolidation Act and criminal damage or theft. And it applied to anyone who knew about the order and did anything which helped another person to breach it.
As it stands, the injunction has significantly increased the risk of protesting. For example, the maximum penalty on conviction for obstructing the highway – the usual charge against people who take part in slow-walking protests – is a £1,000 fine, although most courts impose a conditional discharge for first offences. The maximum penalty for contempt of court is two years in prison.
Mr Corre said: “This Ineos legal shock and awe exercise is typical of the arrogance of Jim Ratcliffe [the INEOS owner] who thinks he can buy the British law and play God on moral issues.
“Rather than rely on existing laws for prosecuting protesters when breached, INEOS’s injunction has added extra legal snares to prevent legitimate protest activities and paralyse protesters by threats of imprisonment and economically through prohibitive costs orders.”
He criticised INEOS for seeking to explore for shale gas at Marsh Lane, in Derbyshire, near a school and less than 400m from homes. He also accused the company of “bullying a national treasure” by threatening court against the National Trust, which has refused access to Clumber Park for seismic surveying.
“Someone has to stand up to these gigantic bullies who are running roughshod over our homes, national parks, communities and schools and now over the laws that protect our fundamental rights and freedoms.”