Question to Minister on protecting the right to protest

Today around 3pm I’ll be raising the issue of freedom to protest with questions to the Government in the House of Lords about the Court of Appeal’s striking out an injunction obtained by INEOS in a secret court. The successful appeal was brought by two individuals and Friends of the Earth, representing an enormous victory for the right to protest. It will hopefully pave the way for more successful appeals by peaceful protestors who have had their human rights restricted by the frackers and other environmental vandals.

Currently, five fossil fuel companies, Cuadrilla, UKOG, IGas, Angus and INEOS, have obtained civil injunctions in force against protesters at fracking sites spread across 10 counties. Similar injunctions have been used against HS2 campaigners and the Sheffield Tree Protectors. The broad scope of the injunctions, which essentially criminalise a wide range of protest actions which would otherwise be lawful, represents a corporate hijacking of the legal system. Big companies have been using their power and money to enable environmental destruction against the wishes of local communities.

It’s a relief that the Court of Appeal has seen sense and decided in favour of the right to protest over corporate interests. In fact, they referred not only to the European Convention on Human Rights but also to fundamental principles in English law.

The Court of Appeal has now clarified what the legal test is for granting injunctions in protest cases, which makes it much more difficult for the companies and opens the door to challenge many of the other protest injunctions which have been granted. Following on from the issues raised in the appeal, I will ask the Government to review the Civil Procedure Rules to ensure that legal representation is guaranteed in all injunction cases brought against “persons unknown” to make sure that the right to protest is always protected and enforced by the courts.