Application to end draconian UKOG injunction banning peaceful protest at oil sites in Surrey and Sussex

Tuesday 24 March 2020

Stephanie Harrison QC, Joint Head of Chambers and a member of the Garden Court Chambers Civil Liberties Team is representing five protesters instructed by Michael Oswald of Bhatt Murphy Solicitors.  

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Lawyers for five peaceful protestors, supported by the Weald Action Group, have applied to the High Court to bring an end to an interim injunction against protest at oil sites in Surrey and Sussex in line with a new Court of Appeal ruling.

A recent judgment, made on a case brought by fur company Canada Goose, says it's unlawful to allow interim injunctions against "persons unknown" to drag on and vindicated the protestors’ argument that companies such as UK Oil & Gas (UKOG) should stop misusing Court procedures to get wide orders against lawful protestors through the unfair device of persons unknown.

Michael Oswald of Bhatt Murphy solicitors, who is representing the protestors, said:

“Following on from a Court of Appeal ruling in the Canada Goose case, we are now applying for UKOG’s claim against persons unknown to be struck out and the Injunction discharged.”

“If UKOG want to continue with this injunction against protests at Horse Hill and Broadford Bridge, they will have to identify all those people they can prove have or are likely to get involved in unlawful activity so they have an opportunity to defend themselves in court. We will insist that UKOG need to start again with a properly constituted set of proceedings and demonstrate to the court that this order is needed plus identify those to whom it applies.

UKOG’s interim injunction for its sites at Horse Hill, Surrey and Broadford Bridge, West Sussex, has been in place for over 18 months. UKOG finally conceded last week that they had to revise the injunction in line with the outcome of the INEOS injunction case, and remove all terms of the order relating to protests against its supply chain companies including “gathering and loitering”.

A trial to decide whether the interim order should become a final Order is scheduled for December 2020.

Ann Stewart speaking on behalf of the five campaigners said: 

“The scope of a ‘Persons Unknown’ injunction is far too wide and is a deterrent to peaceful protest.  The Canada Goose Judgment has confirmed that these blanket injunctions are a violation of human rights and this approach cannot be applied to ‘persons unknown’ to stifle everyone’s freedom to protest”.

“Now that UKOG have been directed by the court to identify all defendants it is clear that lawful protesters are being added for doing no more than turning up to express their opposition to the fossil fuel industry”

The next hearing will be held on 2nd April at the Rolls Building in London.

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