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Monday 1 July 2019

Cuadrilla v Persons Unknown: Anti-fracking protestors found in contempt of court

Tom Roscoe (of Wilberforce Chambers) and Julie Dilcock (assisted by Shona Jenkins) of Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP have successfully acted for long-standing client Cuadrilla Bowland Limited (and others) on an application to commit three respondents for their breach of a High Court injunction preventing unlawful forms of protest at Cuadrilla’s hydraulic fracturing site at the Preston New Road in Lancashire.

Tom and Julie previously acted for Cuadrilla on the grant of the injunction in July 2018 against “persons unknown” preventing trespass, obstruction of vehicular access to the site and conspiracy to injure Cuadrilla by unlawful interference with its supply chain ([2018] 7 WLUK 223).

Following a two-day hearing, HHJ Pelling QC (sitting as a Judge of the High Court) on 28 June 2019 found each of the three respondents in contempt of court for every incident alleged, including a multi-hour “lock-on” on the highway at the entrance to the site and an unlawful means conspiracy to stop vehicles on the highway making deliveries to the site.

The judgment (a transcript of which is awaited) will be of interest as it relates to the enforcement of injunctions against “persons unknown”, and the Court’s conclusion that references to parties’ intentions in such orders does not render them too uncertain to be enforced via committal proceedings – thereby helping to clarify the effect of Boyd v Ineos Upstream [2019] EWCA Civ 515.

A further hearing is due to take place in September 2019 to determine sentencing and the respondents’ and Friends of the Earth’s application to vary the terms of the injunction.

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