Environmental and human rights campaigners are set to find out if they have been successful in the latest round of their fight against a “draconian” injunction granted to energy giant Ineos.
The injunction, which was granted by the High Court in November 2017, prevents “persons unknown” from trespassing on or obstructing access to the company’s shale gas sites.
It also prevents people from combining together to commit unlawful acts “with the intention of damaging” Ineos or any other companies in its supply chain.
Ineos argues the injunction is intended to only “prohibit unlawful activities” and not “injunct lawful activity”.
But opponents say its terms are “unprecedented and wide-ranging” and argue the injunction has had “a very serious chilling effect on lawful and legitimate protest activities”.
At the Court of Appeal in London on Wednesday, Lord Justice Longmore, Lord Justice David Richards and Lord Justice Leggatt will rule on an appeal against the injunction brought by campaigners Joe Boyd and Joe Corre.
Their lawyers argued at a hearing in March that the injunction is “unlawfully, unnecessarily and disproportionately exposing to risk of financial and penal sanction” campaigners who are exercising their “rights to free speech and to protest”.
Heather Williams QC, for Mr Boyd, argued that the judge who granted the injunction “did not distinguish between lawful freedom of expression and assembly … and unlawful activities”.
She added that anti-fracking campaigners were “protesting on a matter of broad public interest, against what is widely considered to be a harmful activity, in pursuit of the perceived common good”.
Mr Corre’s barrister Stephanie Harrison QC said fracking was “highly controversial” and there were “widespread and compelling concerns about its adverse impacts on the environment, climate change and the local communities” in which it was proposed to take place.
She also pointed out that the terms of Ineos’s injunction have since been applied in similar cases involving oil and gas firms Cuadrilla, UK Oil and Gas, Angus Energy and IGas.
Ms Harrison argued that if Ineos’s injunction was upheld, that it was “likely to become the default position in protest cases”.
Alan Maclean QC, for Ineos, said there was “no error of legal principle” in the judgment granting the injunction, which he said was “unimpeachable on appeal”.
Mr Maclean dismissed the contention that the injunction was unclear, submitting that it “clearly identifies and describes the categories of persons unknown, by reference to the ingredients of the particular wrongs”.
He added: “It prohibits unlawful activity and there is nothing difficult about a would-be protester being in a position to know whether or not he or she is within the scope of the order.”