Campaigners challenge injunction against anti-fracking protesters
Lawyers for two anti-fracking campaigners argue in high court that injunction obtained by Ineos curtails protester rights.
The legality of a wide-ranging injunction obtained against anti-fracking protesters by a multinational firm is to be examined in a three-day court hearing. Two campaigners have launched a legal challenge against the injunction obtained by Ineos, the petrochemicals giant. Joe Corré, the son of the fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, and Joe Boyd, say it is draconian, oppressive and dramatically curtails protesters’ rights.
Directed at “persons unknown”, the injunction covers any campaigner who protests against Ineos’s fracking activities.
It tells protesters that they may be imprisoned, fined or have their assets seized if they cause any obstruction to the firm’s fracking operations, or substantial interference with its lawful activities.
The legal case could be pivotal as other companies faced with protests over their conduct could take out similar injunctions.
Ineos, which seeks to become one of the UK’s biggest frackers, had been granted the temporary injunction in July at an unpublicised court hearing at which no one else was able to make legal arguments.
At a second high court hearing on Tuesday, Ineos had sought a ruling making the injunction permanent.
Mr Justice Morgan decided to extend the injunction for two months with small modifications until the three-day hearing in November that will decide whether to impose it on a long-term basis.
Ineos says the injunction is necessary to “protect people on and around our sites and supply chain”.
Janet Bignell QC, representing Ineos, argued that the firm cannot accept its staff and contractors being intimidated and threatened by protesters.
Ineos had told the court in July that there was ample evidence that the risk of unlawful protests was “both imminent and real”. On Tuesday, Heather Williams QC, representing Boyd, said the claims by Ineos were “grossly overstated, alarmist and hyperbolic”. Boyd was “very concerned about the breadth” of the injunction and its “chilling impact upon legitimate protest, assembly and expressions of opinions on this controversial topic”.
“He is equally concerned that such a wide-sweeping order being made on a wholly pre-emptive footing … on the basis of allegations that in significant respects do not withstand close scrutiny,” she added.
Stephen Simblet, representing Corré, said that Ineos had warned campaigners that if they challenged the injunction in court and lost, they may have to pay the costs of all the lawyers. This was a “deliberate and considered” attempt by Ineos to deter campaigners from “putting their heads above the parapet”, he added.
Boyd, a 44-year-old student from Liverpool, on Monday launched an appeal to raise £2,500 to pay for his legal costs. At the time of publication, the public had donated £1,625 to the appeal hosted on the website Crowdjustice, which backs legal cases.