Today, three senior judges have overturned a prohibitive injunction implemented against anti-fracking campaigners, in the case of INEOS v Person’s Unknown which was first challenged back in October 2017. It was the end of October 2017 when the hearing about our objections was heard by Justice Morgan at the Chancery Division of the courts. This was the three-day hearing granted after the one-day hearing about ‘varying or discharging the order’ which was held in September 2017.

This morning, in a reserved judgement at the Court of Appeal, Lord Justice Longmore, Lord Justice David Richards and Lord Justice Leggatt ruled that the injunction, taken out during a secretive ex parte hearing, was in fact, unlawful.

The injunction was sent out via emails, direct personal messages to Facebook, postings to websites and an array of High Court order notices attached around INEOS’s sites. The injunction was a dangerous indication of a reckless industry that holds no social license nor ability to liaise with communities, outside of threatening the right to protest. You can read more about the injunction here and at Drill or Drop.

Environmental activist and businessman, Joe Corré, appealed the injunction at the Court of Appeal in a short hearing starting on Tuesday 5th March 2019. He was joined by campaigner Joe Boyd and Friends of the Earth.

The judges ruled that it was unlawful for INEOS to bring an injunction against certain classes of ‘Persons Unknown’. They also agreed that slow walking on a public highway was a legitimate form of protest.

Following the ruling, Joe Corré said:

“This is a fantastic result and has restored my confidence in the British Legal system. INEOS’s ridiculous company motto says it all: ‘We Came, We Bought, We Conquered’. Fortunately, the Court of Appeal agrees that INEOS cannot buy and conquer the British law.

“INEOS thought they could game the British legal system by using ASBO laws designed to protect people, against the people. They can think again. INEOS’s fraudulent attempt to use secret courts and fake evidence against people that don’t even exist has come unstuck under common sense judicial analysis.

“Article 10 guaranteeing the right to freedom of expression and Article 11, protecting the right to freedom of assembly and association have rightly been reaffirmed by the Court of Appeal judges.”

Today’s win in the Court of Appeal against INEOS will have vast implications for other oil and gas companies who built on INEOS’s injunction, with their very own prohibitive injunctions brought against protestors’ right to protest.

Joe Corré’s legal representative, Stephanie Harrison QC, said:

“Today’s judgement recognises 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. This judgement makes clear that the Court will intervene to prevent powerful companies like INEOS using draconian injunctions to intimidate and deter people from participating in lawful protest against fracking, which is widely seen by campaigners and local people affected to be dangerous and damaging to the environment and their communities.”

Court orders that are currently in force at sites connected to the oil and gas industry are in ten regions: Lancashire, Sussex, Surrey, Nottinghamshire, Cheshire, Derbyshire, North Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, Hampshire and central London. Some cover sites for which there is no planning permission. These injunctions will now also fall apart.

The one-and-a-half day case at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, challenged the INEOS injunction, originally granted by Mr Justice Morgan in December 2017, on the grounds of:

  1. It should not have been made against categories of ‘persons unknown’.
  2. Mr Justice Morgan had not properly assessed the evidence provided by INEOS and the challenges by the many witnesses from the local communities opposing INEOS’s dangerous activities and taking over their communities.
  3. The restrictions on protests against INEOS suppliers were unlawful.
  4. It did not properly take into account Human Rights Law and the right to protest on the public highway.

The Court of Appeal agreed with all of the above points.

The defendants argued that the injunction was unprecedented, wide-ranging, vague in its definitions and based on exaggerated and untested evidence. It breached the human rights of opponents of fracking and had a chilling effect on protest, the court heard.

In her closing submissions, Stephanie Harrison QC, barrister for Mr Corré, said INEOS could not make the case for using the different categories of “persons unknown” at all or without being able to clearly define who they are. The Court agreed, refusing to make the injunction against two of the widest categories of ‘persons unknown’ and returning the rest of the case to the High Court to be reconsidered on all of the evidence.

Joe Corré said:

“Our fight will continue until this treacherous fracking industry is eradicated from Britain once and for all. We cut off one of their arms at the first hearing where they tried to make it an offence to post things about them on social media that they did not like. This Court of Appeal result has now cut off the rest of their limbs.”