Campaigners are celebrating a significant weakening of an injunction, which set out to target peaceful protest at unconventional oil sites in Surrey and Sussex.
The High Court has agreed a variation of the Order by UK Oil and Gas (UKOG) against ‘Persons Unknown’, removing clauses relating to their supply chain, combining together to protest and ‘gathering and loitering’ at the sites.
Five women from Surrey and Sussex have been acting as Defendants against this injunction for nearly two years and have made significant gains along the way, despite UKOG recently trying to remove them from the case.
“When UKOG first served this Injunction it outrageously sought to ban lawful campaigning and protest, so our perseverance is paying off alongside others in similar campaigns ” said Lorraine Inglis. “The bar on gathering and loitering has had an intimidating effect on peaceful protesters. Now this has been removed and once lockdown is over, we can again gather at the Horse Hill site and show the strength of our concern about this method of oil production and the threat it poses to our climate and local environment.
“The use of legal proceedings against Persons Unknown based on the wide and ill-defined tort of conspiracy to injure is not only a clear infringement of the rights to free speech and assembly but is fundamentally unfair. The Courts have now made that clear and companies must recognise that they cannot seek to use such arbitrary and disproportionate methods to control peaceful protest and subvert due process and fair trial rights”.
Campaigners from the Weald Action Group are applying to the court to have the whole injunction struck out because it targets ‘Persons Unknown’. The Campaigners have been vindicated by rulings in the Court of Appeal that have recently confirmed that it is unacceptable to use the Persons’ Unknown procedure in protest cases.
The other site covered by the Interim Injunction, Broadford Bridge in West Sussex, is currently inactive and therefore an injunction there serves no purpose but to intimidate people and deter them from getting involved in local campaigns.
The next hearing is due to take place in July. The Defendants are urging the Court to bring the hearing forward so as to draw a line under this sorry saga.
- The five defendants from Surrey and Sussex are supported by the Weald Action Group, which is an umbrella for groups across the South East campaigning against the expansion of onshore oil and gas.
- The women are represented by Bhatt Murphy Solicitors and Stephanie Harrison QC and Stephen Simblet QC of Garden Court Chambers