Environmental activists were heavily restricted at or banned from seven sites belonging to frack firm Ineos today, along with the surrounding roads.
The wide-ranging Chancery Division ruling by judge Morgan represents a major extension of legal cover for the firm and has sparked fears that other fracking companies could piggyback their own injunctions against activists. It comes as the fracking industry continues to struggle with low fuel prices and what has been a highly effective year of protest against the unpopular and highly polluting mining technique. This summer’s Rolling Resistance campaign for example all but shut down Preston New Road near Blackpool for most of a month.
The “persons unknown” injunction places Ineos in the unenviable company of Britain’s vivisection and arms industries, as it doesn’t just restrict individuals, but anyone traveling on roads near affected sites in what critics say is a “draconian” order shutting down human rights. Affected sites include:
- Dronfield Road, Sheffield
- Carr Farm, Sheffield
- Winney Lane, Sheffield
- Four Topper Oak, Warrington
- Givenhead Farm, Snailton
- Hawklease, Lyndhurst
- 38 Hans Crescent, London
- Woodsetts Road, Rotherham
- Anchor House, Britten Street, London
The judgment (here) highlighted that Ineos and its lawyers have been heavily monitoring social media networks and campaigning websites such as Drill or Drop and collating posts to try and build a picture of organised outside agitation, suggesting it amounted to a “high degree of organisation.” The Ineos legal team attempted to persuade Morgan that firms had been subjected to a conspiracy of harassment, and pointed to a spike in the number of arrests in and around fracker-held land over the course of 2017:
- First quarter: 60 arrests
- Second quarter: 138 arrests
- Third quarter: Likely around 130
Campaigners have repeatedly been heavily critical of policing around the anti-frack protests however, and policing watchdog Netpol recently brought out a scathing report suggesting that the hundreds of arrests reflect a politicised policing model which should itself face an independent review.
Looking at the judgment, Netpol pointed out today that:
In evidence Ineos said they were advised by senior national “domestic extremism” police officers to use civil injunctions against anti-fracking. What role will the police play in helping to enforce the injunction? Intelligence sharing?
Morgan said in his judgment that he agreed there was a risk of trespass, equipment damage, interference with rights of way and highway blockades and the targeting of secondary or tertiary supply firms. However he threw out claims of harassment and an attempt to use anti-picketing laws from the Trade Unions Act 1992 against the protesters.
An injunction against trespass and blockage of private rights of way was granted, and in an extension of existing case law used to bar people from using tactics like lock-ons, Morgan suggested that as being static would be an “unreasonable use” of the highway…
I simply do not see that the somewhat token amount of movement involved in slow walking would change the legal assessment of the protesters’ actions.
The injunction thus explicitly includes slow walking and lorry surfing.