Environmental campaigners have defeated a ‘draconian’ injunction against anti-fracking protests. The injunction had been granted to the energy giant Ineos and, according to Friends of the Earth who intervened in the appeal, there are now court orders granted to five fossil fuel companies presently in force at sites spread across ten counties.
The Court of Appeal yesterday ruled that the INEOS injunction had been granted unlawfully and ordered changes to protect civil liberties and free speech. Friends of the Earth explained: ‘These include the complete removal of two key elements with significant and wide-ranging effects: persons unknown unlawfully causing loss to INEOS by “combining together” and protesting against INEOS’ suppliers, and persons unknown protesting on the public highway, using tactics such as slow walking.’
The appeal had been brought by activists Joe Corré and Joe Boyd. Campaigners had argued at a hearing at the Court of Appeal in March that its terms were ‘unprecedented and wide-ranging’ and had ‘a very serious chilling effect’ on lawful and legitimate protest activities.
While the bans on trespassing on INEOS’ land and interfering with private rights of way remain in place, the Court of Appeal has held that the High Court did not apply the correct test under the Human Rights Act when it granted the injunction.
‘This is a humiliating defeat for INEOS and a victory for campaigners and human rights,’ commented Dave Timms, head of political affairs at Friends of the Earth. ‘We believe that these injunctions are a sinister attempt to use the law to stop peaceful protest against the fracking industry.’
Stephanie Harrison QC, of Garden Court Chambers, said that the judgement recognised the ‘serious chilling effect of the INEOS injunction on civil liberties, particularly the broad, sweeping terms of the injunction against wide categories of persons unknown’. ‘The outcome of this case serves to underline the importance of the Human Rights Act 1998 as a safeguard for fundamental freedoms like free speech and the right to protest. These rights are the life blood of our democracy,’ she added.
Friends of the Earth said that they would be writing to other fracking companies ‘informing them that they should withdraw or substantially amend them or face possible legal action’.