Campaigners defending the right to peaceful protest are celebrating as an injunction against persons unknown at the Horse Hill oil site in Surrey was finally laid to rest.
UK Oil and Gas (UKOG) have been granted a limited final injunction against only five named individuals based on evidence, some going back to 2014.
The interim injunction originally sought in March 2018 was against wide-ranging categories of “persons unknown” and covered four sites. It sought to restrict various protest and campaigning activities including “lawful protest” if it interfered with the economic interests of the oil company and to seriously restrict protest on the public highway.
Six women from Surrey and Sussex stepped up to challenge this unfair and draconian injunction, and in doing so had to become named defendants. More than three years later and after numerous court hearings, both in person and remotely, the injunction has finally been knocked back to a shadow of what was sought by UKOG and what was originally granted by the Court in September 2018.
“It’s completely unacceptable that an oil company could go to court and buy such a far-reaching and long-lasting injunction, which the courts have ruled can’t be made permanent in this form. It was left to members of the public to challenge this plus raise the funds to go to court and fight it”, said Vicki Elcoate, one of the defendants. “We’re proud that we defended the right to peaceful protest. We are all concerned about the impact the oil industry is having on our climate and countryside, and we have a right to express our views without the chilling effect of an injunction and the severe penalties it threatened.”
Stephanie Harrison QC said, “This case graphically shows what the Courts have now accepted and these six women courageously sought to establish, that person’s unknown injunctions are unfair and lead to arbitrary and disproportionate interference with the fundamental right to protest and should only ever be used in very limited circumstances, on a short-term interim basis.
“Moreover, and more widely, it shows that private law remedies such as injunctions pursued by Companies to regulate and control ongoing public demonstrations are not well suited for the task. Private interests and commercial activity should not be permitted to override civil liberties and usurp the rights of local residents and other members of the public to engage in lawful opposition to those activities and where there is legitimate public concern as in this case, and relating to the impact on the local environment and the climate emergency. ”
- ‘Persons Unknown’ – which made the injunction potentially apply to an infinite number of people
- 3 of the 4 sites – it only applies to Horse Hill in Surrey
- Any restrictions on lawful protest on the public highway including gathering on the road outside of the site and slow walking in front of lorries.
- Any restrictions on wider campaigning activities including writing to companies in the supply chain and telling others about protest at the site.
- Serving injunction papers and court documents on campaigners using Facebook accounts under fake names.
The defendants and the Weald Action Group are very grateful to the lawyers representing them: Stephanie Harrison QC, Stephen Simblet QC, Fatima Jichi of Garden Court Chambers and Michael Oswald of Bhatt Murphy solicitors.
Find out more
Read more about the injunction and the campaign against it: www.wealdactiongroup.org.uk/injunction
In 2019 UK Oil and Gas secured permission for another 20 years of oil drilling at the Horse Hill site, despite the Climate Emergency. This is subject to an appeal due to be heard in November.