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Oil firm granted partial ‘draconian’ injunction

Campaigners vow to fight order restricting their right to peacefully demonstrate

ENVIRONMENTAL campaigners vowed to fight on yesterday after the High Court granted UK Oil and Gas part of the “draconian” injunction it sought.

UKOG pressed for an “unprecedented, wide-ranging” injunction against “persons unknown” and six named defendants to prevent peaceful protests at oil-drilling sites at Broadford Bridge in West Sussex and Horse Hill in Surrey, as well as its head office in Guildford.

Stephanie Harrison QC, for the defendants, previously told the court that the injunction as drafted would “undoubtedly prohibit and criminalise” the actions of protesters and would affect their “fundamental rights” to demonstrate lawfully.

But Judge John Male QC granted UKOG an interim injunction in relation to Horse Hill and Broadford Bridge. However, he refused the injunction in relation to the firm’s head office.

There have been a number of “direct action” protests at sites in Surrey and Sussex, including the construction of a “fortress” and network of tunnels.

Other campaigners have taken part in “lorry surfing,” slow walking in front of vehicles to obstruct access, and holding coffee morning-style events at site entrances, including one called Cake At The Gate.

Granting the interim injunction, Mr Male said: “I accept that protests on the highway are permitted, but the rights of others also to use the highway must be respected, as also must the rights of the claimants to pursue their lawful business activities and to enjoy the rights in land and in their chattels.”

In a statement, defendants from the Weald Action Group said: “Communities across the south-east are rightly fearful of the threat posed by these companies to their environment and people will find it very confusing to work out what they can and can't do under the terms of this injunction.

“We’re going to fight on. Oil companies cannot be allowed to set the legal framework for protest in this way.

“Dissent is not a crime and the penalties for breaching an injunction are severe.

“We do not believe that powerful private companies should be able to use the law to silence and intimidate campaigners concerned about the dangers and damage to the environment and our communities.”

The campaigners also announced their intention to appeal against the ruling.

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