High Court discharges injunctions in INEOS protestor cases

Friday 25 March 2022

Stephen Simblet QC, of the Garden Court Chambers Civil Liberties and Protest Teams, represented Joe Corré in the most recent proceedings. Mr Corré has been represented previously by, in addition to Stephen, Stephanie Harrison QC, Laura Profumo and Fatima Jichi, all of Garden Court Chambers.

Their instructing solicitor is Michael Oswald from Bhatt Murphy Solicitors.

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After long battles against an intimidating multi-national corporation, those wishing to be able peacefully to protest against fracking without being subject to threats of imprisonment and financial ruin won a significant battle. Today, in INEOS v Persons Unknown, HHJ Klein sitting as a judge of the High Court made orders that resulted in the remaining injunctions being discharged and requiring INEOS to pay the costs of the applications before him on an indemnity, i.e. punitive basis.

The effect of today’s decision is that INEOS, having come to court in 2017 and obtaining what they said was “the most wide-ranging injunction of its kind” and which had prohibited all sorts of forms of protest, including away from any fracking sites, no longer have any injunctions in force at all. This position has only been reached because a number of people, including Joe Corré, represented by Bhatt Murphy solicitors and barristers from Garden Court Chambers, were willing and able to oppose INEOS' over-reach. The judge in 2017 (Morgan J) had been persuaded to discharge one of his own orders and prevent the injunction in harassment from being granted.

Thereafter, following a successful appeal to the Court of Appeal (Boyd & Anor v Ineos Upstream Ltd & Ors [2019] EWCA Civ 515 (03 April 2019) (bailii.org)), the Court of Appeal had struck down injunctions preventing protests away from the sites, and had left in place, on a temporary basis pending remission to the court, injunctions preventing trespass at INEOS’s sites. Subsequently INEOS, as the judge today stated, had done “hardly anything” to progress their claims. It was not until several months after Joe Corré had made an application to have the proceedings struck out,  and just a couple of days before that application was due to be heard,  that INEOS made applications to move matters on. INEOS applied for the remaining injunctions to be discharged and for there to be a general stay on the claim.

In his judgment of 25th March 2022, HHJ Klein found that INEOS was inexcusably at fault for delaying the claim and that their conduct after August 2021 amounted to an abuse of process of the court by benefiting from an injunction that they appreciated should not be maintained. He decided that INEOS’s application for a stay should be refused and that the proportionate response to INEOS’s abuse of process of the court was that they should suffer a costs penalty. In a separate judgment also delivered on 25th March, HHJ Klein ordered INEOS to pay all of Mr Corre’s costs, both in relation to making his own application and also those of dealing with their applications. The judge required those to be paid on an indemnity, i.e. punitive basis.

The case will now be listed for a further hearing, at which INEOS may be required to pay the parties’ costs from the original proceedings. The current position is that INEOS no longer hold any injunctions, and the threats to seek costs that were made to those resisting their claims have instead seen INEOS incur many hundreds of thousands of pounds of legal costs, both in relation to their own costs and those costs of others that they have been ordered, at various stages, to pay.

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