PRESS RELEASE – SOUTH EAST CAMPAIGNERS DEFEND THEIR RIGHT TO PROTEST AGAINST UKOG
PRESS RELEASE – SOUTH EAST CAMPAIGNERS DEFEND THEIR RIGHT TO PROTEST AGAINST UKOG
For Immediate Release
Injunction Injustice – campaigners stand up for their right to protect their green and pleasant land in High court hearing – joined by Bianca Jagger, Sue Jameson and Joe Corre
The shires of England are rising up to protect a way of life being threatened by oil and gas company UKOG in the High Court today (Monday 19th March 2018).
Human rights defender Bianca Jagger, actor Sue Jameson and Agent Provocateur founder Joe Corre (son of fashion designer Vivienne Westwood) are among the high profile people due to support local residents from Surrey and Sussex who live near the four sites targeted for legal action.
UK Oil and Gas (and its family of companies) has applied to the High Court for an injunction which would, if granted, effectively stop any campaigning that affects its ECONOMIC interests. It seeks to prevent lawful activity “where the predominant intention is to injure the claimant’s economic interests”. The draft injunction names only “persons unknown”.
Actor Sue Jameson, who lives close to the Broadford Bridge site in West Sussex said:-
“Our way of life is being threatened by this company – not only do they plan to industrialise the countryside and risk polluting our water but also they want to take away our right to speak out about it. I believe the judge will see sense and throw this out.”]
Bianca Jagger, President and Chief Executive of the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation (BJHRF) is calling on UKOG to withdraw its application for an injunction said:-
“I am appalled that residents of South East England, are being threatened with intimidation and censorship for speaking out against the potentially irreversible damage to their way of life, to their water sources, to the air, and their environment by unconventional drilling operations. I call on UKOG to withdraw its application for an undemocratic and draconian injunction, which is a shameless attempt to ride roughshod over local peoples right to peaceful, lawful protest.” (full statement below)
Joe Corre, activist and head of TalkFracking is challenging an interim injunction awarded to energy company INEOS which operates in the Midlands and North of England has condemned this legal move:-
“This application for an injunction from UKOG is a copycat of the INEOS injunction with added bells and whistles. Make no mistake this is a full frontal assault on our fundamental human rights to protest. The fact they are bringing these applications in the chancery division of the High Court which normally deals with contract disputes and does not have experience of dealing with human rights issues shows how these Companies are gaming the legal system and showing contempt for the law. We will not be intimidated.”
Weald Action Group spokesperson Lorraine Inglis said: “This is an attack on our human rights and freedom of expression. It would have a chilling effect on lawful protest and campaigning right across the South East. UKOG have admitted that ‘this kind of oil deposit very much depends on being able to drill your wells almost back to back’ – they have admitted that their plan is to industrialise our landscape. Campaign groups must remain free to raise awareness of this threat.
Human rights organisations, Green party, Friends of the Earth, The Labour party and Greenpeace are among those to condemn the proposed legal action.
Local residents from across Surrey, Sussex and the North of England will be outside the court to show their opposition to this move.
UKOG claims it will be using only “conventional” methods to extract the oil, yet the company seeks to use a technique known as acidisation, where diluted hydrochloric acid is put down a well to dissolve limestone, releasing the oil trapped within, as well as oil within adjacent shale formations.
The initial challenge is being supported by Netpol’s Activists Legal Action Fund and brought on behalf of campaigners and will be represented by civil rights lawyer Michael Oswald and his team at Bhatt Murphy solicitors.
Kevin Blowe of Netpol (Network for Police Monitoring said: “The sweeping nature of the injunction is extraordinary. By seeking to prevent any interference with UKOG’s “economic interests” – a term that could mean almost anything – the company seems to suggest that the only “acceptable” protests are those that have no cost impact on its business and no effect on its share price. “Anything else risks the potential threat of expensive legal action against local campaigners, even if they are “combining together using lawful means”, something that is a fair description of how every campaign group has ever operated. EC4A 1NL The Hearing is due to start at 1030 and is scheduled for two and a half hours.
UKOG has sites in Surrey (Horse Hill) and Sussex (Broadford Bridge and Markwells Wood) which are mentioned in the injunction; plus a 40% interest in the Leith Hill (Surrey) Europa site and on the Isle of Wight. Part of the draft injunction deals with trespass on the sites or rights of way on them (a similar ban is in place at Leith Hill). More information, background, interviews available. Michael Oswald and Dr Damien Short can be available afterwards for interview. For more information, background and interview requests please contact Jane Mote on firstname.lastname@example.org 07850 787118
QUOTES FROM SUPPORTERS OF OPPOSITION TO THE INJUNCTION FOLLOW HERE:-
Emily Mott, Markwells Wood said:-
“UKOG has consistently overstated the resources at Markwells Wood and significantly downplayed the risks involved with acidising in our unique and vulnerable water catchment. It comes as no surprise that they would grossly exaggerate the threat of engaged residents in our rural hamlet. Everybody has a right to peaceful protest and no restrictions should be placed on this.
UKOG is attempting to undermine reasonable concerns about the health of our community and environment. These are the ways in which we are expressing our views and we are intentionally being peaceful and productive. It is inappropriate to attempt to impose an injunction on campaigners. What position justifies this? It is essential in a modern democracy to uphold the freedoms and rights of individuals.”
Vicki Elcoate,A Voice for Leith Hill said:-
“The application here at Leith Hill in Surrey is still going through the planning and environmental permitting system. The injunction could mean that it will be a breach to gather together to discuss how to oppose these applications, or to travel up together to the planning committee. By barring lawful action it shuts down participation in the democratic process. That is unreasonable and unfair. It would also potentially stop us organising events, handing out leaflets, disseminating information online etc. Saying it’s draconian is probably an understatement”.
Neil Pitcairn, Resident near Horse Hill said:-
“Surrey residents are cynical about how “Gatwick Gusher” reports seem to coincide with a need to shore up a sliding share price. They should not be forbidden from commenting on the apparent fragility of these small exploration companies, nor from expressing their fears that their countryside will be left in a mess.”
Dr Damien Short
Director: Human Rights Consortium, School of Advanced Study, University of London said:-
‘It seems that the unconventional resource extraction industry in the UK, with the help of the courts, is seeking to expand the traditional approach in English law, namely that injunction proceedings must start against a named defendant. Companies are apparently seeking to protect their own interests at the expense of the people’s democratic human rights to peaceful assembly and expression. This is deeply worrying. In an era when the public appears to be more concerned than politicians and the extractive industries about the imminent threat of runaway climate change, people’s democratic rights to resist the continued expansion of the fossil fuel industry must be protected. I hope sense prevails and the courts start refusing such draconian, undemocratic, sweeping injunctions.’
of East Kent Against Fracking and the Permanent Peoples Tribunal on Fracking said:-
“In trying to stifle the hard won right to peaceful protest, UKOG demonstrates a pathetic underestimation of the resolve of the many communities who have joined forces to fight this toxic industry. Companies may well wish to protect their “economic interests” but residents are committed to protecting far more: our environment, our health and the right to clean air and water. No injunction will ever stand in the way of that. Instead of trying to criminalise us, UKOG should recognise when its beaten and do its investors a favour by transferring “economic interests” into clean energy.”
Keith Taylor MEP, Green Party said:-
“This is an absolutely outrageous move by a firm that has no social licence for its environmentally-destructive drilling operations and, instead, is seeking a draconian injunction to bludgeon local people’s right to peaceful and lawful protest. It is worth remembering that peaceful and legal protest is just that; peaceful and legal. In a free and democratic country, a company’s economic interests should never supplant citizens’ fundamental human rights. This injunction is not only practically unenforceable it is also chillingly anti-democratic. It presents an obvious and clear breach of the Human Rights Act. I offer my wholehearted support to those residents and campaigners now forced to muster the legal support necessary to ensure this challenge to our civil liberties is rejected out of hand. I would urge anybody who cares about the health of British democracy and human rights to do the same.”
David Abrahams, Friends of the Earth lawyer said:-
“We strongly support the stance taken by local people opposing UKOG’s attempt to use the law to stifle valid means of showing concerns about oil exploration.
“This proposed injunction is a serious attack on the rights of local people to protest and campaign against oil and gas operations. It is completely unacceptable for lawful activities such as taking photographs and gathering outside sites to be included within the scope of an injunction.”
Kevin Blowe, NETPOL (The Network for Police Monitoring) said:-
“This latest interim injunction is another attempt by the onshore oil and gas industry to stifle opposition and severely restrict the right to freedom of assembly. “The sweeping nature of the injunction is extraordinary. By seeking to prevent any interference with UKOG’s “economic interests” – a term that could mean almost anything – the company seems to suggest that the only “acceptable” protests are those that have no cost impact on its business and no effect on its share price. “Anything else risks the potential threat of expensive legal action against local campaigners, even if they are “combining together using lawful means”, something that is a fair description of how every campaign group has ever operated. “We have put campaigners in Surrey and Sussex in touch with experienced lawyers and are looking to provide support for initial legal advice through our Activists Legal Action Fund“.
Full statement from Bianca Jagger, President and Chief Executive of the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation (BJHRF):-
“UKOG’s attempt to silence environmental defenders with an injunction is an attack on freedom of expression and democracy.
I recently participated at the launch of UNEP’s Environmental Rights Initiative at the Human Rights Council in Geneva. This critical initiative recognises the formal interdependence of human rights and the environment. Violations of environmental rights have a profound impact on human rights, including the rights to life, food, water, air, health, housing, sanitation, self-determination, civil and political rights. Those who struggle to protect the environment, the planet and its people should be celebrated. Instead they are being persecuted, harassed and in some countries, they are killed.
I am appalled that residents of South East England, are being threatened with intimidation and censorship for speaking out against the potentially irreversible damage to their way of life, to their water sources, to the air, and their environment by unconventional drilling operations. It is my duty as a British citizen and as President and Chief Executive of the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation (BJHRF) to support the residents in their efforts to defend their fundamental rights.
In 2014 the BJHRF commissioned a report ‘A Human Rights Impact Assessment of Hydraulic Fracturing and other Unconventional Gas Development in the UK.’ The report identified the following human rights violations resulting from this:
The rights to life and security of person
The rights to water and health
The rights to respect for home and private life
The rights to public participation in the decision making processes for environmental matters
The rights of future generations
The human rights dimensions of climate change
The harms and uncertainties of shale gas and oil extraction using acidisation are well-documented – it brings the risk of surface and ground water contamination, radiation, damages air quality, triggers seismic events and impacts on climate change due to CO2 emissions, fugitive methane emissions and the continued reliance on fossil fuels.
I call on UKOG to withdraw its application for an undemocratic and draconian injunction, which is a shameless attempt to ride roughshod over local peoples right to peaceful, lawful protest.” ENDS