At Manchester Civil Justice Centre yesterday, Judge Pelling granted fracking company, Cuadrilla, an injunction against specific anti-fracking protests around its shale gas site at Preston New Road, near Blackpool, until 2020.
The injunction outlaws direct actions including trespass, slow walking, lock-ons, obstruction of the highway and lorry surfing at and near the Preston New Road site, while also prohibiting interference of named companies that supply the site.
The injunction replaces the temporary injunction granted in June (for full background see previous Salford Star article Ė click here).
After the judgement, Ian Crane, one of the challengers to the injunction, said: "If there is to be no opportunity to express concern, beyond standing on the side of street waving a banner without the penalty of losing assets or liberty, this should be put before Parliament. It should not be put before a civil court."
And commenting on three recent injunction cases, brought by Ineos, Cuadrilla and UKOG, he insisted that "Parliamentary democracy is being subordinated by the civil courts".
Jonathan Bartle, co-leader of the Green Party, added: "This is an incredibly sad day for the right to protest peacefully. We're bitterly disappointed by this result, but the fight will continue and we will stand together with all those resisting this destructive industry."
However, Judge Pelling remarked that the injunction "Strikes the correct balance between the rights of the company and the protesters because protesters have been able to protest including gathering on the highway and, gathering in the bellmouth for public meetings, albeit for limited period.
"The claimants [Cuadrilla] fear that without the protection of the order sought there would be an upsurge in protest activity in September 2018 when fracking is due to commence and thereafter with flow testing of gas commences. These fears are well founded."
The challengers disputed this, arguing that Cuadrilla's evidence was inaccurate and exaggerated, that.there was no imminent threat and that action over unlawful acts should be left to the police.
Challenger, Bob Dennett argued that Cuadrilla's evidence was "largely just allegations, conjecture, exaggeration, hearsay and rumour and, in some instances, outright lies..."
Meanwhile, 2,000 pages of scientific and academic evidence proving an imminent threat that the shale gas industry brings to the environment, health, ecology of local communities, was discounted by the judge and not heard in court.
The challengers also said the injunction breached human rights and was already having a chilling effect on the behaviour of people opposed to shale gas developments.
The injunction outlaws trespass at the site, unlawful obstruction of the site entrance and adjacent A583, including lock-ons, climbing onto lorries and slow walking, and unlawful disruption of eight suppliers, including Cuadrilla's lawyers, and eleven Cuadrilla companies. Anyone found to have breached the order could be in contempt of court and risk prison, fines or seizure of assets.
After yesterday's ruling, campaigners said the fight was not yet over... "We have taken it as far as we can" said Ian Crane, who, with others, challenged the injunction without the use of a legal team "If it is to go to the next stage it needs Lancashire to get legal representation and take this to trial."
Frack Free Greater Manchester and other anti-fracking groups staged a demonstration outside the court...
"We are here standing up for our right to protest and in solidarity with communities in Lancashire resisting fracking" said Amy Squire of Frack Free GM "Residents in Greater Manchester know from experience what it is like to have a shale gas site forced on them against their wishes as it happened with the IGas site at Barton Moss in Salford, leading to huge protests a few years ago.
"Instead of unnecessary and unwanted fracking, we should be investing in tried and tested renewables that are already powering us now and creating jobs, and will further grow in the future" she added.
For a full insight into the court case see the Drill Or Drop reports Ė click here
Photos courtesy of Frack Free Greater Manchester