Environmental and human rights campaigners fighting an injunction granted to energy giant Ineos have taken the next step in their legal fight to have it overturned.
Last November a High Court judge in London continued a previously granted order prohibiting unlawful activities such as trespass or obstruction at the company’s shale gas sites.
But campaigners describe the injunction as both “unprecedented” and “draconian” – claiming it will seriously limit the right of people to protest peacefully against the activities of fracking companies and those linked to them.
Lawyers acting on their behalf said on Thursday that they have lodged an appeal against the injunction.
Ineos Shale is involved in exploratory work such as geological surveys in the East Midlands, but not any hydraulic fracking.
Lawyers for the company have said the injunction was to “prohibit unlawful activities on private and public land”, and not to “injunct lawful activity”.
Environmental activist Joseph Boyd, represented by law firm Leigh Day, and fellow campaigner Joseph Corré, represented by Bhatt Murphy Solicitors, are now hoping to challenge the order at the Court of Appeal.
Their lawyers say the injunction, granted on an interim basis, “prevents individuals and campaign groups from being able to engage in certain forms of peaceful, and otherwise lawful, protest activity in relation to fracking, without the immediate threat of arrest and/or a fine”.
Mr Boyd said: “The High Court judgment has wide-ranging impacts on not only those involved in the campaign against climate change and fossil fuels, but also anyone who wishes to express opposition against any potentially controversial industry.
“I don’t think that people should be constrained to banner waving and petition signing in order to protect the environment and the health of their families and future generations.
“I very much hope the Court of Appeal will agree to review the current injunction and properly uphold our right to peacefully protest, a core value in this country’s democratic history.”
Rosa Curling, solicitor at Leigh Day, said: “Free speech and a right to peacefully protest is at the heart of any effective democracy.
“The current injunction, which we are seeking to challenge in the Court of Appeal, has wide-ranging implications that reach far beyond any debate around the environmental damage of fracking.
“This case represents the right that all of us have to stand up and say that we don’t agree with something without facing the fear of arrest and imprisonment.”
During a hearing before Mr Justice Morgan last year, Alan Maclean QC, for Ineos and a number of individuals, told him that it was accepted shale gas extraction “is a contentious issue, and one on which opinions are divided”.
The merits of shale gas extraction was not a matter for the court to determine, he said.
The application was for “interim pre-emptive injunctive relief in relation to various sites in which the claimants have various property rights, and against unlawful behaviour aimed at disrupting the claimants and associated third parties from carrying out their lawful activities”.