UK Court Upholds Ineos Shale Gas Order
Britain’s High Court has granted Ineos’ request to renew the injunction it obtained at the end of July, prohibiting “unlawful acts” by protestors at its shale gas exploration sites. The Swiss-based group asked for the renewal as anti-fracking campaigners mounted challenges to the order.
The injunction being called the most wide-ranging ever issued for the benefit of the shale industry and the first ever issued pre-emptively, puts protestors in contempt of court if they obstruct operations. It will increase the powers of police and the judicial system to detain and prosecute those regarded to be breaking the law.
Ineos said it welcomes the judge’s decision to renew the injunction, which will remain in force until a further hearing later in the year, adding that it looks forward to presenting its case in full at the next hearing in November. According to reports, some minor amendments were added for the sake of clarity, but the document remains unchanged in substance.
The interim injunction covered eight named locations, as well as company offices and property belonging to site landowners. It also applied to routes to proposed exploration sites and to activities by Ineos employees and firms in its supply chain, including any depots, equipment, people and operations.
Anti-fracking campaigners said the injunction has significantly increased the risk of protestion, particularly its potential effect on most peaceful actions. The maximum penalty for slow walking, in which protesters attempt to delay deliveries by walking slowly in front of vehicles, is a £1,000 fine. The maximum penalty for contempt of court is two years in prison.
UK news reports said the injunction appears to prevent the protest tactic of truck-surfing, in which campaigners climb on top of vehicles to slow operations. It also includes harassment of Ineos employees and third parties, along with criminal damage or theft, but also extends to anyone who helps another person to breach it.
Joe Corré, son of fashion designer Vivienne Westwood and a member of the group Talk Fracking, said he had made submissions to Ineos’ lawyers to object to the continuation of the order, along with another campaigner, Joe Boyd. Lawyers for Corré said the protestors were told by Ineos that if they challenged the injunction and lost they would have to pay the legal fees of both sides.
On the day the injunction was renewed, Boyd launched a crowdfunding drive in an attempt to recoup the £2,500 cost. According to the UK newspaper the Guardian, two days later he had raised half that sum.