High Court upholds draconian anti-protest injunction granted to fracking company INEOS
Yesterday, the High Court upheld and renewed a wide sweeping pre-emptive injunction granted to fracking company INEOS.
INEOS is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of chemical and oil products, and the largest owner of shale licenses in the UK, with fracking licenses that cover more than 1.2m acres of land across the north‐west of England, Yorkshire and the Midlands. In July 2017 INEOS was granted an unprecedented, ex parte injunction preventing a wide range of protests against INEOS and its suppliers.
The injunction applied not only to eight sites across England, where fracking is planned or under investigation by INEOS, but also to a large number of unidentified group companies, contractors, subcontractors and other entities which make up INEOS’s ‘supply chain’. The injunction was addressed to “persons unknown”, that is, the world at large, which spurred the campaign hashtag #INEOSvThePeople.
The effect of the injunction is that individuals will be in contempt of court if they engage in a variety of different forms of protests, such as slow-walking, which have not previously been held to be unlawful in all circumstances. An arrest for breach of this injunction could result in a prison sentence of up to two years and/or a fine up to £5,000.
Environmental activists Joseph Boyd, represented by Heather Williams QC, Blinne Ní Ghrálaigh and Jennifer Robinson with Leigh Day Solicitors, and fellow campaigner, Joseph Corré, represented by Garden Court counsel and Bhatt Murphy Solicitors, applied to the court, seeking the injunction’s discharge.
Heather Williams QC argued that the unprecedented injunction was unlawful on the grounds that INEOS had failed to provide the court with evidence which justified such a broad injunction and that the order was having a substantial impact on the legitimate rights of those people wishing to protest lawfully against fracking across the UK. The inclusion of slow-walking, which has become a particularly important form of protest in the anti-fracking movement and other movements in the UK and around the world, in the scope of the injunction is particularly problematic. However, Mr Justice Morgan has now upheld these concerning elements of the injunction, although accepting that the part of his earlier injunction relating to harassment should be discharged.
In response to the ruling, Mr Boyd said yesterday:
“What INEOS has obtained from the Court today is profoundly troubling, it allows for an unprecedented restriction on our fundamental rights. The removal of the harassment aspect of the injunction is an important victory for us. But the rest of the injunction cannot be left unchallenged and we will be filing an application for permission to appeal.”
Mr Boyd plans to seek permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal.
Without the efforts of Joe Boyd and Joe Corre to represent “persons unknown”, the status quo of this injunction would have continued unchallenged. Joe Boyd’s ongoing legal challenges against the injunction can be supported through the Crowd Justice campaign here.
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