10:42, September 11 51 0 theguardian.com

2017-09-11 10:42:03
Campaigner challenges Ineos in court over order curbing fracking protests

A second campaigner is challenging a sweeping injunction obtained by a petrochemicals giant against anti-fracking activists that has been criticised for profoundly limiting protests.

Joe Boyd, an anti-fracking campaigner, is going to the high court in London on Tuesday in an attempt to stop the injunction which has been secured by the multinational firm, Ineos. He is appealing to the public for donations as he could face a large bill if he loses.

Another campaigner, Joe Corré, the son of the fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, announced last week that he was challenging the legality of the injunction that he denounced as “draconian, anti-democratic and oppressive”.

Whether the injunction is allowed to stand may have implications for the ability of campaigners in general to protest against the conduct of corporate firms.

The injunction secured by Ineos warns protesters that they face being imprisoned, fined or having their assets seized if they obstruct the firm’s fracking operations.

Addressed to “persons unknown”, it applies to all campaigners and forbids them from harassing Ineos staff and contractors in any way or interfering with their lawful activities.

Ineos, which is seeking to become one of the biggest frackers in the UK, secured the temporary injunction in July at an unpublicised high court hearing, at which no campaigners had the chance to challenge the legal move.

The hearing to consider whether to make the injunction permanent comes at a time of frequent protests against the fracking industry, which is struggling to attract widespread support.

Ineos said the injunction was justified to “protect people on and around our sites and supply chain”. It said it had presented extensive evidence showing that unlawful protests were “both imminent and real”.

A spokesman said: “It is our duty to prevent risks to the safety of the public as well as our staff. We also will not accept our staff and contractors being intimidated and threatened. Taking this action was the responsible and right thing to do.”

It said the injunction had not altered anyone’s right to peaceful protest. However this claim is disputed by protesters.

Boyd said the injunction would be “an unprecedented and long-term affront to our right to lawful protest”.

He highlighted how the injunction specifically prohibits a campaigning tactic in which protesters walk slowly in front of lorries to delay deliveries.

“An arrest for breach of this injunction, which could simply be for slow walking on a public pavement outside a protest site, will be in contempt of court and the protester will be liable for up to six months imprisonment and/or a fine up to £5,000,” Boyd said.

Campaigners who challenge the injunction could face a legal bill to pay for all the lawyers at any court hearing if they lose.

Boyd, a 44-year-old student from Liverpool, said he would be unable to pay such a bill and so he is asking for donations from the public through a crowdfunding appeal on Crowdjustice, which funds legal cases.

Campaigners from the environmental group Friends of the Earth and the human rights group Liberty have also warned that the injunction could have a chilling impact on lawful protests. They have written to Ineos demanding that they urgently clarify its scope.

Friends of the Earth campaigner Guy Shrubsole said grassroots campaigners had been left “confused and fearful of falling foul of its broad yet vague terms. We’re talking about grandmothers with placards being afraid of getting locked up for years, simply for trying peacefully to protect their local environment.”

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