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Environmental campaigner challenges “draconian” fracking injunction at the High Court

An environmental campaigner is going to the High Court to challenge an injunction which he claims stops peaceful protests at fracking sites across the UK

11 September 2017

Lawyers representing an environmental campaigner are challenging a pre‐emptive High Court injunction which was granted to Ineos, the largest owner of shale licences in the UK, preventing protests at their fracking sites and a significant number of sites linked to their suppliers.

A hearing on 12 September 2017 at the High Court in London is anticipated to decide whether the injunction, which was granted in July 2017, will be renewed.

Lawyers for Joseph Boyd, 44, a prominent anti‐fracking campaigner, argue that the injunction is unlawful as it has a substantial impact upon the human rights of those people wishing to protest against the drilling for shale gas across the UK.

The High Court injunction means that protesters would be in contempt of court if they engage in different types of protests, including if they cause any obstruction to Ineos’ shale operations at eight sites across England.

An arrest for breach of this injunction could result in prosecution for contempt of court and the protester could be sentenced to up to two years’ imprisonment and/or a fine up to £5,000.

The UK petrochemicals group Ineos is controlled by Jim Ratcliffe, its founder and chairman.

Their fracking licences cover more than 1.2m acres of land across the north‐west of England, Yorkshire and the Midlands.

It has been reported that Ineos confirmed the injunction was the most wide‐ranging of its kind and the first issued pre‐emptively before a company had planning permission to start drilling.

Tom Pickering, operations director of Ineos Shale said after the July hearing: “We have a duty to do all we can to ensure the safety of everyone on and around our sites, including the protesters.”

However, campaigners have called the injunction “draconian” and they claim it will seriously limit the right of people to protest against the activities of fracking companies and those linked to them.

The original injunction was granted in July at an ex‐parte hearing at which nobody else but Ineos, and landowners who have leased land to them, was represented.

The injunction granted against 'persons unknown' is being challenged by law firm Leigh Day and barristers Heather Williams QC and Blinne Ní Ghrálaigh, on behalf of Mr Boyd.

Mr Boyd, of Liverpool, said: “I have consistently seen the role of protesting as a fight for democracy at both a local and national level.

“This temporary injunction, if renewed, will be an unprecedented and long‐term affront to our right to lawful protest.”

Rosa Curling, solicitor in the human rights team at law firm Leigh Day, said: “We believe the terms of the interim injunction breach Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantee the right to freedom of expression and freedom of association.

“Our client is fighting against this injunction to ensure that local people, citizens and campaigners retain their right to hold peaceful protests against the fracking industry and those involved in it.”

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