“The Voice of Persons Unknown” – Defendants can stay in the case opposing a draconian oil company injunction

An application by oil company UK Oil and Gas PLC (UKOG) to strike out five women from Surrey and Sussex who oppose their interim injunction failed at the High Court today.

Lawyers on behalf of the women had applied to have the interim injunction struck out, following on from a separate Court of Appeal ruling about the use of ‘Persons Unknown’ injunctions to bar protest. In response UKOG, which has an interim injunction for sites at Horse Hill in Surrey and Broadford Bridge in West Sussex, sought to have the women removed as a party to the proceedings.

Chief Master Marsh said: “The named Defendants may proceed with their application. They do not represent the persons the Claimants are seeking to join but I can see nothing objectionable in them assisting the court with evidence and submissions”.

He recognised that they are “concerned residents in the areas affected by the Claimant’s activities”. He said the case raised “significant” issues including human rights.

He referred to the statement in which Vicki Elcoate said: “We are there to give a voice to the ‘Persons Unknown’ as best we can” and the “chilling effect” which the Defendants say the injunction has on peaceful protest.

He also said that Lorraine Inglis, on behalf of the Defendants and the Weald Action Group, had submitted detailed analysis of the lengthy list of additional defendants who are proposed to be added to the injunction. This statement discusses a multitude of errors, particularly as the evidence submitted by the oil company refers to a Facebook account which the oil company apparently set up then almost immediately deleted, to ‘serve notice’ on defendants.

Afterwards Vicki Elcoate said: “This is a welcome judgment and a small victory on the road to having our human rights in regards to peaceful protest recognised”.

Notes:

  • The hearing was held via Skype.
  • The next hearing will now take place before a High Court Judge in summer of this year. It will decide whether the injunction should be struck out or whether UKOG’s significantly watered down injunction is agreed.
  • The five defendants from Surrey and Sussex are part of the Weald Action Group, and are represented by Bhatt Murphy Solicitors and Stephanie Harrison QC and Stephen Simblet QC of Garden Court Chambers.

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