A day long wrangle over court procedures failed to resolve any of the main issues in the UK Oil and Gas (UKOG) injunction case, which is being opposed by five fossil fuel campaigners from Surrey and Sussex.
It also failed to involve any of the so-called possible defendants which the oil company claim to number 116, despite two having come forward to remove their names from it.
The full day hearing was by Skype because of the Covid-19 social distancing advice and the hearing was dogged by technical difficulties and excluded people not able to access Skype.
“We didn’t even get off the starting blocks”, said Lorraine Inglis on behalf of the Weald Action Group which is supporting the five women. “Using Skype was difficult and it didn’t seem to allow for people with limited access to technology to get a fair hearing. UKOG’s barrister’s main aim was to try and convince Chief Master Marsh to remove the defendants who originally challenged the injunction, which would mean our legal representatives wouldn’t be able to continue the arguments about human rights and what constitutes lawful protest”.
UKOG’s barrister Tim Polli QC had applied to the court to have the five women, who are being represented by barristers Stephanie Harrison QC and Stephen Simblet QC from Garden Court chambers and solicitors Bhatt Murphy, removed.
“Without legal representatives being able to present all the arguments to the court, including human rights, it will be difficult for anyone to come forward and oppose this injunction. It bans forms of protest that are lawful and lists people who pose no threat to UKOG’s activities. Recent court Judgments have changed the law on injunctions and we have every right to continue defending the public interest in our right to protest”, said Lorraine Inglis.
The five women had applied to the Court to have the injunction struck out due to the many changes that have taken place. The only argument that was heard was about whether or not they had a right to be part of the proceedings at all.
At the end of the day’s hearing Chief Master Marsh pointed out that only 30 minutes had been allocated for this aspect of the case. A decision will be made on the 8th April.