A long running saga involving UK Oil and Gas Ltd (UKOG) and their interim injunction against “Persons Unknown” has finally been laid to rest. A Judge agreed an Order for a final injunction in very limited terms against 5 named individuals. We hope the outcome was a final nail in the coffin of draconian and far reaching injunctions which curtail peaceful protest.
Five women from Surrey and Sussex challenged this unjust injunction starting in March 2018 under the Weald Action Group (WAG) umbrella. They’re celebrating alongside the rest of WAG after a massive climb down by the UKOG group of companies.
The order for the final injunction was made at a hearing in July 2021.
UKOG had tried to turn protest into a criminal offence. It has had a chilling effect for locals and campaigners to be able to exercise their right to challenge the potential risks and damage that could be caused by this company with their unconventional drilling methods.
The injunction, which seeks to ban peaceful protest, has been in place since 2018. The WAG defendants have managed to get the injunction reduced in geographical size (by removing three of the sites) and in scope – most of the restrictions in the original and later versions of the injunction have been struck out. Our main achievements have been to remove bars on:
- lawful activities
- “watching and besetting” the oil company and its allies
- “combining together” for protest actions
- protest against the supply chain for the oil extraction operation
- activity at Markwells Wood, Broadford Bridge, and at the UKOG HQ in Guildford
- slow walking and other protest on the public highway
If we, and others, had not turned up at the High Court in March 2018 and put ourselves forward as named defendants, the injunction could have remained unchallenged. Yet its very basis – that it is addressed at Persons Unknown – has since been found wanting in other courts and cases.
In early February 2021 we were back in court, represented by Stephanie Harrison QC, Stephen Simblet QC and Bhatt Murphy Solicitors. A last minute change to the Order by UKOG means that we were asking the court to move to a trial as soon as possible. This interim injunction has dragged on for nearly three years and a line needs to be drawn under it.
Mrs Justice Falk agreed to bring forward the final trial date. Initially scheduled for February 2022, it has been brought forward to June-October 2021. The judge said the interim injunction should end by 31 October 2021 at the latest. If the injunction is made final, it will mean that UKOG’s order can no longer apply to “persons unknown”.
We are very grateful to our legal team at Garden Court and Bhatt Murphy and would recommend them to anyone facing a similar challenge.