INEOS INJUNCTION ATTEMPTS TO ‘PRIVATISE THE LAW’ AND SHUT DOWN FRACKING PROTESTS

Back in July INEOS were granted an unprecedented national injunction against ‘persons unknown’ related to protests at eight named locations, company offices, property belonging to site landowners, routes to proposed exploration sites and companies in its supply chain. This is in effect a ‘pre-emptive injunction’ for well-sites which have not yet been licenced for fracking, and at which there have not been any protests to date. This injunction was granted in a closed ex parte hearing, at which only INEOS gave evidence to the Judge and no other parties were able to make legal arguments. You can read more about the original injunction on Drill or Drop and in The Guardian.

The scale of this injunction far exceeds any previous injunction we know of in many respects, and effectively means anyone who is arrested during a protest at the named locations will not only be subject to the punishments handed down by the criminal justice system, but may also be held in contempt of the injunction. This will then allow INEOS to pursue the person for damages to their business. For example, someone who, say, is arrested for obstructing the highway could be held responsible for any delay in the company’s activities, and end up being sent to prison, face a huge fine or have their assets seized. Even posting about a protest on social media might mean people are found in contempt, as INEOS are quoted as saying that this injunction would also apply to anyone who promoted a protest knowing the injunction would be breached (although of course how could anyone know this in advance?).

In effect, it appears that INEOS are attempting to ‘privatise the law’ by establishing a regime for far harsher penalties for peaceful protest than are prescribed by the criminal justice system. The injunction has already had a chilling effect on those campaigning against fracking, and has meant that a lot of people, unsure of the parameters of the injunction, have been discouraged from protesting or campaigning for fear of getting caught by this draconian injunction. While in some ways this case is about fracking, it is also about the right to protest in general.

Many people feel that this injunction is unlawful for many reasons, and is in contravention of Articles 10 and 11 of the Human Rights Act, which guarantees Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Assembly and Association. If this injunction is allowed to stand, it will mean than any corporation can apply for a ‘pre-emptive injunction’ of this nature to prevent any protest by ‘persons unknown’ at any site in the future, citing the INEOS injunction as a precedent. This, in effect, could shut down peaceful protest across the UK, or at least make it far more difficult to organise without running the risk of draconian punishment.

The original temporary injunction was challenged by two anti-fracking campaigners, Joe Corré and Joe Boyd, at a high court hearing in September. At this hearing the injunction was not made permanent, as INEOS had hoped, but was extended for two months.The judge also granted a further 3-day hearing to rule on the case, which will begin on Monday 30th October. You can read more about the September hearing in Drill or Drop here, and also in The Guardian.

There is also an interesting follow-up report in the Guardian regarding INEOS’s refusal to supply the summary document that was presented to the court in September, which you can read here. Further coverage of the injunction can be found in this Talk Fracking post, the BBC and in the Nottingham Post.

Finally, if you would like to help Joe Boyd with the legal costs for this case, please donate on this dedicated CrowdJustice page,

Thank you for reading this, and please share this page with anyone you know who is concerned about fracking, protecting our human rights and our right to protest.

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