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. Read more
Why anti-fracking campaigners must challenge INEOS’ national injunction
CALL-OUT: If you live in an INEOS exploration licence area, are potentially eligible for legal aid and are prepared to take a stand against the injunction obtained by the company, please contact Michael Oswald at Bhatt Murphy on 020 7729 1115
On 31 July, the shale gas company INEOS, which has exploration licences across North and South Yorkshire, the East Midlands and Cheshire, obtained an interim injunction preventing ‘persons unknown’ from conduct that might constitute “harassment” against it or from committing a range of offences including obstruction of the highway. The court order states that anyone disobeying the injunction could face a summons for contempt of court and could face imprisonment, a fine or the seizure of assets. Read more
Over the coming months, more and more Lancashire anti-fracking campaigners arrested at Preston New Road face trials at Magistrates Courts around the north west of England.
Even for experienced activists, appearing in court is nerve-wracking and many defendants from Lancashire are facing a hearing for the first time. All would welcome as much solidarity as possible, with supporters in the public gallery to witness proceedings.
However, local campaign groups have said they recognise the risk that drawing a significant number of Protectors away from the frontline on Preston New Road to attend court may make it easier for Cuadrilla to beat the blockade without sufficient opposition on site.
They need others to step forward and offer court solidarity – can you help? Read more
Last week’s verdicts were an important victory – but they do not settle arguments about what constitutes “reasonable” obstruction of the highway
During last week’s trial of anti-fracking campaigners charged with obstructing the highway near the Horse Hill exploration site in Surrey, one defendant made the surprising claim that a solicitor at the London law firm Bindmans had told him “it was OK to walk in the road”.
District Judge William Ashworth said he was “disturbed” by this statement, although it seems more like a simple misunderstanding of a solicitor’s advice. It reflects, though, the degree of confusion felt by many anti-fracking protesters about their rights to protest against lorries and tankers arriving at oil and gas exploration sites – and in particular, the use of the “slow-walking” tactic. Read more
Crown Prosecution Service expected to drop further cases as a result of judge’s ruling on ‘slow walking’ protest at Barton Moss anti-fracking camp
A District Court judge in Manchester has ruled that two protesters, John Wasilewski and David Cohen, who engaged in a ‘slow walk’ at Barton Moss anti-fracking camp in February 2014, were not guilty of aggravated trespass. A third defendant, Boris Roscin, was found guilty because he had knelt down in the road.
UPDATE 7 February 2016: The CPS has formally discontinued a further 20 similar cases and up to 20 more are currently under review.
We must keep up the pressure for the scrapping of the criminal courts charge.
This is the second of two guest posts by Netpol member Legal Defence & Monitoring Group (LDMG)
On 13 April 2015 a new set of criminal court charges came into force. These were slipped in using secondary legislation without debate or consultation, leading the Law Society to express its outrage at ‘back door’ criminal court fees.
- If you plead guilty to a summary offence in the magistrates court, the charge is £150. However if you plead not guilty but are then convicted the charge more than trebles to £520.
- If you plead guilty to an either way offence in the magistrates court, the charge is £180. However if you plead not guilty but are then convicted the charge increases more than fivefold to £1,000.
- In the Crown court, if you plead guilty you will be charged £900, while those convicted at a trial on will have to pay £1,200.
There is no concept of ability to pay and the press has carried reports of destitute asylum seekers (prohibited from working or claiming benefits) being charged. The Law Society, the Bar Council and Howard League for Penal Reform all say that defendants are pleading guilty even when they are innocent. Read more
This is a guest post by Netpol member Legal Defence & Monitoring Group (LDMG).
For (too?) many years, LDMG has been urging protesters who get nicked to plead not guilty, point out that being charged is not the same as being convicted. Even if it seems that you are bang to rights, there is a long way between arrest and trial.
17% – the chance of arrest
As you can see from the tables below, only 43 of the 100 cases we have monitored ever even went to trial. Of those that did, a number were dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service at the start of the trial. A common reason for throwing the case out of court was the police not even showing up as witnesses, or offering no evidence, sometimes ‘losing vital tapes or documents. Read more
By Susannah Mengesha
This month I was thrilled to receive successful decision on my judicial review case against the Police Commissioner regarding the police use of Kettling for indiscriminate intelligence gathering purposes.
The court held that the police must not demand protesters to give their name, address and date of birth, and demand that they be filmed, as the price for leaving a kettle. Read more
The High Court ruled last week on how the judiciary will deal with allegations of sexual abuse brought against undercover police officers who had infiltrated activist groups. The judgement was a disturbing one, as much for the attitudes it displayed as for the final decision that was reached. In his written judgement Judge Tugendhat compared undercover cops to James Bond, and suggested that ‘everyone in public life’ would assume that undercover roles would include sexual activity. His attitude bore a worrying resemblance to that of Bernard Hogan Howe, who angered campaigners by stated that police having sex while in an undercover role was ‘almost inevitable’. Read more
Repost from the Guardian, written by Hannah Eiseman-Renyard
The high court has ruled that 15 pre-emptive arrests were not unlawful, as the criminalisation of protest continues
On the day of the royal wedding I was arrested for a fictional breach of the peace. This week the high court has ruled that there was nothing unlawful about the police’s actions.
I was in fancy dress on the day. That was it. One minute I was in a Starbucks near Soho Square with four other people who’d come for a zombie flashmob. Four hours later I emerged from a police cell with handcuff marks still visible on my wrists. If it can happen to a boring, middle-class white girl like me, it can happen to anyone.
The Metropolitan police decided the gathering (an alternative celebration organised by Queer Resistance) was a demonstration against the royal family – therefore we were arrested. I had come to Soho Square to report on the flashmob for a friend’s zombie blog. I had no political aims whatsoever – but it seems the police’s assumptions about my politics were grounds enough to arrest and detain me until the public celebrations were over. Read more