Netpol launches legal fund to support anti-fracking groups

Substantial donation kick-starts new project providing financial support for resisting civil legal threats to anti-fracking groups.

A new civil legal action fund supporting anti-fracking groups launches today, as a number of campaigners opposed an interim injunction obtained by the shale gas company INEOS at a hearing this morning at the high court in London.

Aggressive legal tactics by the company have raised widespread concerns about what effect the court order it was granted at the end of July may have, if left unchallenged, on freedom of assembly and the right to protest.

This case is unusual as previous injunctions involving fracking sites have been on a far smaller scale and have normally focused on a single location. The INEOS injunction covers a wide area of the country and seeks to prevent a broad range of protest activities. including “slow-walking” of deliveries to its sites.

Most civil cases are less dramatic. This does not mean, however, that the sudden receipt of legal threats or a ‘service of order’ notice in any circumstance, particularly when oil and gas company lawyers attempt to send them via Facebook or Twitter, will not cause considerable alarm. This is invariably exacerbated by the obstacles to seeking expert legal advice.

Civil legal aid is rarely available and representation is often expensive. For organisations like Netpol and Green and Black Cross, it also very difficult to respond to campaigner’s fears with general guidelines, as every injunction is different.

Today, Netpol is therefore launching a new ‘Activist Legal Action Fund’, thanks to a substantial donation from Humanade that has enabled us to kick-start this project.

The Fund will aim to provide anti-fracking campaign groups with funding to obtain initial civil legal advice if they are faced with the unnerving threat of a legal challenge by the onshore oil and gas industry. This covers the threat of injunctions, possession orders to evict protectors camps and allegations of defamation by companies against campaign groups’ newsletters or publicity. Anti-fracking groups can seek financial support from the Fund through their solicitors.

The Fund only covers civil proceedings, not criminal cases.

Netpol is also appealing for campaigners to provide financial support for this kind of specialist legal support by making a donation. In the future, we want to extend this assistance to any campaign group facing civil action by landowners or corporate interests.

For further information on the Fund and to find out how to donate, visit activistlegalactionfund.org