Friends of the Earth takes legal action against Cuadrilla anti-protest injunction

By agency reporter
June 26, 2019

Friends of the Earth has launched legal proceedings against the fracking firm Cuadrilla to force it to substantially reduce its wide-ranging injunction which restricts protest against its operations at Preston New Road in Lancashire. An initial hearing on the challenge will take place at the High Court in Manchester on Friday 28 June 2019.

The move comes following a landmark case at the Court of Appeal in March 2019, which found that substantial parts of a similar injunction granted to fossil fuel giant Ineos were unlawful on human rights grounds, and would have a chilling effect on peaceful protest. The Court of Appeal ordered extensive changes to the INEOS injunction to protect civil liberties and free speech. These included removing restrictions on persons unknown “combining together”, to unlawfully causing loss to INEOS, protesting against its suppliers and contractors, and protesting on the public highway, using tactics such as slow walking.

Following that judgement Friends of the Earth wrote to Cuadrilla in May 2019 informing the company that it believed its injunction – which contains many similar elements, and vague and uncertain terms which the Court of Appeal objected to in the Ineos case - was unlawful, demanding that it be varied to meet the standards set by the Court of Appeal. Cuadrilla has refused to do so and Friends of the Earth has now filed an application to the High Court to vary the injunction.

Friends of the Earth's Head of Political Affairs, Dave Timms said: "Injunctions such as that granted to Cuadrilla raise very significant human rights issues, and are a sinister attempt to use the law to stop peaceful protest against the fracking industry. They create a climate of fear where people taking peaceful protest are uncertain about whether their actions could breach the often vague and uncertain terms of the injunction, with the risk of imprisonment or having their assets seized if they do.

"Rather than being dealt with by the criminal courts, they put decisions about public order policing into the hands of the oil and gas industry with their army of corporate lawyers and private security firms. The Court of Appeal rightly ordered significant reductions to Ineos' draconian and wide-ranging injunction, to protect human rights. Cuadrilla must now abide by this judgement."

The legal process for the challenge will start with a directions hearing, which will be held at the end of a four day committal hearing, which started on Tuesday 25 June at the High Court in Manchester. Three peaceful protesters are facing enforcement proceedings brought by Cuadrilla for alleged breaches of the terms of its injunction, and could be found in Contempt of Court. This might mean significant fines or even imprisonment.

The Cuadrilla injunction is one of five similar wide-ranging injunctions granted since 2017 to fossil fuel firms, against certain protest activity by 'persons unknown'. These highly controversial injunctions, granted to five fossil fuel firms, cover 16 sites in 10 counties. 

* Friends of the Earth


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