The high court has decided to continue banning protests against the fracking plans of petrochemical baron Jim Ratcliffe’s company Ineos.
A judgement on Thursday partially upheld a temporary nationwide injunction against “persons unknown”. It was granted to Ineos in July and extended last month.
Ineos holds more licences to explore for shale gas to frack than any other company in Britain, but it hasn’t it yet gained planning permission for any site.
Cuadrilla’s fracking only got the go-ahead by getting the central government to overturn a county council vote. For Ineos, pushing ahead with fracking means getting the law to quash protests.
Ineos is preparing to frack in north east Derbyshire, including around the village of Eckington which has seen several protests hundreds-strong.
David Kesteven of Eckington Against Fracking told Socialist Worker, “That the judiciary has upheld this injunction is disgusting—I’m angry and disappointed.”
The campaign is at the stage of stopping Ineos from getting planning permission. It has made objections documenting the effects that fracking would have on traffic, noise and air pollution.
David said, “We hope to get a fair hearing—but with the precedent set by the injunction, fair hearings seem to be in short supply.”
Ineos didn’t get it all its own way. The injunction bans forms of non-violent direct action used to stop or slow down its lorries at Danesmoor near Clay Cross this summer.
This can have quite a broad application. But in an important retreat, it no longer construes all forms of protest against Ineos as “harassment”.
Bolsover Labour Party member Nick Clarke was part of the protests at Danesmoor. He explained, “Protests will undoubtedly continue against fracking.
“Ineos wanted to get a blanket injunction to get those protests marked down as harassment and stop them before they happen. But that’s been removed. It’s not all done and dusted yet.”
Campaigners can still appeal against Wednesday’s ruling, and Ineos will need to clear further legal hurdles before making its injunction permanent.
And banning protests doesn’t necessarily stop them happening. As Kevin Blowe of police monitoring organisation Netpol pointed out, “Ineos now has to implement the injunction.
“Potentially hundreds of people could be acting against the terms of the order. They have to make a decision on who they bring contempt proceedings against.”
The injunction could set a dangerous precedent for other fracking companies to follow. As well as challenging it in court, campaigners must defy it.
Chesterfield and district trades council president James Eaden said, “This an outrage. But it’s not going to stop people protesting.”