Lawyers for five peaceful protesters supported by the Weald Action Group have applied to the High Court to bring an end to an interim injunction against protest at oil sites in Surrey and Sussex in line with a new Court of Appeal ruling.
A recent judgment, made on a case brought by fur company Canada Goose, says it’s unlawful to allow interim injunctions against “persons unknown” to drag on and vindicated the protesters’ argument that companies such as UK Oil & Gas (UKOG) should stop misusing Court procedures to get wide orders against lawful protesters through the unfair device of persons unknown.
“Following on from a Court of Appeal ruling in the Canada Goose case, we are now applying for UKOG’s claim against persons unknown to be struck out and the Injunction discharged”, said Michael Oswald of Bhatt Murphy solicitors who is representing five women from Surrey and Sussex who are opposing the injunction.
“If UKOG want to continue with this injunction against protests at Horse Hill and Broadford Bridge, they will have to identify all those people they can prove have or are likely to get involved in unlawful activity so they have an opportunity to defend themselves in court. We will insist that UKOG need to start again with a properly constituted set of proceedings and demonstrate to the court that this order is needed plus identify those to whom it applies”.
UKOG’s interim injunction for its sites at Horse Hill, Surrey and Broadford Bridge, West Sussex, has been in place for over 18 months. UKOG finally conceded last week that they had to revise the injunction in line with the outcome of the INEOS injunction case, and remove all terms of the order relating to protests against its supply chain companies including “gathering and loitering”.
A trial to decide whether the interim order should become a final Order is scheduled for December 2020.
Ann Stewart on behalf of the five defendants said: “The scope of a ‘Persons Unknown’ injunction is far too wide and is a deterrent to peaceful protest. The Canada Goose Judgment has confirmed that these blanket injunctions are a violation of human rights and this approach cannot be applied to ‘persons unknown’ to stifle everyone’s freedom to protest”.
“Now that UKOG have been directed by the court to identify all defendants it is clear that lawful protesters are being added for doing no more than turning up to express their opposition to the fossil fuel industry.”
The next hearing will be held on 2nd April at the Rolls Building in London.
The women are represented by Bhatt Murphy Solicitors and Stephanie Harrison QC of Garden Court Chambers.
The Canada Goose judgment was an appeal by a fur company against a High Court ruling that the scope of their ‘persons unknown’ injunction against protesters was too wide. Canada Goose lost the appeal and the Judges in the case made a number of statements which address some of the concerns raised by the widespread use of these injunctions to stifle peaceful protest. You can read it here: https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2020/303.html