A draconian ban on anti-fracking protests is being challenged in court today by activists

Fracking company INEOS got a pre-emptive injunction against all future protests on some very flimsy evidence.

Two campaigners are taking a fracking company to the High Court today, challenging an injunction that pre-emptively bans all future protests — it’s worrying that a court would grant the fracking industry such power.

Joe Corré, the son of fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, and Joe Boyd will argue that an injunction taken out by fracking company INEOS, that bans future protests on or near its sites or the sites of its contractors, breaches human rights law.

The injunction, which was granted 31st July, covers eight named locations, including two proposed shale gas sites in Derbyshire and Rotherham, and bans anyone from interfering with the company’s activities or blocking roads near its facilities.

The ban applies to “persons unknown”, so effectively anyone who protests against the company is liable for arrest, fines and seizure of assets.

Mr Corré described the ban on protests as: “a draconian all-encompassing pre-emptive injunction that could put law-abiding citizens in prison for doing something that is not an imprisonable offence,” adding:

“INEOS have effectively told locals that if they even put their foot in the wrong place or criticise INEOS on social media, they could lose their livelihoods and homes by having their assets seized.”

INEOS acted pre-emptively in applying for the court order against protests — no direct action against the company having ever taken place.

The fracking company gained the injunction by apparently claiming a bizarre string of incidents near its site constituted a real threat to their operations.

For example, two dog walkers who shouted at a company employee were cited as protestors and car tracks found in a field next to one of their sites were claimed to be evidence of activists planning a protest.

Heather Williams QC, on the legal team challenging the injunction, said that INEOS had gained an injunction against future protests without any “hard evidence” that such a threat existed.

The assumption was made that because action had taken place against fracking giant Cuadrilla’s operations in Lancashire, it would also happen at INEOS’s sites, Williams said.

In a challenge to the injunction in September, Williams said it was an “unwarranted leap” to assume protesters would target INEOS’s operations, adding:

“It should be a matter of considerable concern that a party might come before this court with these hyperbolic statements that are not born out by the evidence.”

The fact that fracking companies are now taking pre-emptive legal action against peaceful protestors shows just how worried they are and just how effective these protests can be — fracking companies are losing the argument, they can be stopped.

You can follow the progress of the case on Joe Corré’s Twitter.

Read more: We’re close to defeating fracking in the UK — Lancashire is the industry’s last stand

Oscar Webb is a staff writer for Left Foot Forward. He tweets here.

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