Protest injuntion part-allowed for Broadford Bridge oil drilling site

An oil drilling company has won a partial victory in the High Court to allow an injunction against certain types of protest at Broadford Bridge.

The site near Billingshurst has been the subject of lock-ons, slow-walking and rig-surfing protests during the last year, all of which are now barred by the injunction.

Anti-drilling campaigners fought the injunction from site owner UK Oil and Gas (UKOG), which they said was an imposition on human rights to peaceful protest, and have said they are considering an appeal following the verdict on Monday.

In a statement, the defendants said: “We welcome the partial support the judge gave to our case but we’re going to fight on.

“Oil companies cannot be allowed to set the legal framework for protest in this way.

“Dissent is not a crime and the penalties for breaching an injunction are severe.”

The High Court rejected a number of the injunction’s restrictions and the inclusion of UKOG’s offices in Guildford as part of the injunction, which will now soley cover the company’s Horse Hill site in Surrey and Broadford Bridge.

The judge also accepted the case put by Friends of the Earth and disallowed a blanket ban on publicising and promoting protest activities.

Human rights were found to be engaged in the case, but the court rules that the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and association were limited by the commercial interests of the oil company.

Obstruction of entrances and targeting suppliers are included in the injunction, which UKOG had argued was necessary to protect itself and its suppliers.

The Weald Action Group, including campaigners who doggedly opposed an application by UKOG drill at Markwells Wood in Stoughton, has said it was ‘worth fighting’ the ‘draconian’ injunction.

It stated: “UKOG have ended up with an injunction at two sites which restricts significantly less than they sought. This is a partial success.

“But the injunction is still against persons unknown – which means everyone potentially.

“The injunction as it stands leaves considerable uncertainty as to what is and isn’t allowed and that is one of the things that are seriously wrong with it.

“It is unclear and complex and will continue to deter participation in entirely lawful and peaceful campaigning.”