Court of Appeal reduces fracking protester sentence and affirms that the courts attach great weight to the right to peaceful protest

27 January 2020

The Court of Appeal has allowed the appeal of three anti-fracking protesters in part. This was the first case of protesters being found in contempt of court for breaching an anti-protest injunction. Days before the appeal, fracking company Cuadrilla abandoned their opposition to the activists’ argument that key parts of the injunction at the Preston New Road fracking site should be removed.

The Court rejected the argument that activists Katrina Lawrie, Lee Walsh and Christopher Wilson, should have not have been committed because the anti-protest injunction was too uncertain but reduced the sentence of Katrina Lawrie and found that a High Court Judge had failed to properly apply human rights law before sentencing the activists.

Importantly, the Court also gave detailed guidance on the appropriate sanctions in political protest cases, stating in the clearest terms in a UK court judgment to date that “greater clemency” should be shown in cases of non-violent civil disobedience. Lord Justice Leggatt, giving the judgment of the Court, said there are “at least three reasons” for leniency, including that “a person who engages in acts of civil disobedience establishes a moral difference between herself and ordinary law-breakers which it is right to take into account”, that such a protestor is “generally – apart from their protest activity – a law-abiding citizen” and that the “purpose of imposing sanctions, whether for a criminal offence or for intentional breach of an injunction, is to engage in a dialogue with the defendant” (paragraph 98).

The appellants applied to remove key parts of the injunction which significantly restricted protest outside the Preston New Road fracking site. Days before the appeal hearing in December, Cuadrilla themselves applied to withdraw the offending parts of the injunction, in effect conceding part of the appeal.

The Court has also granted permission to appeal the lower court’s finding that the appellants should pay Cuadrilla’s costs of the case. The appellants will now argue that this breaches their human right to a fair trial and access to the courts – if this argument does not succeed, they are likely to be liable to pay tens of thousands for Cuadrilla’s corporate lawyers. There is a huge disparity between the resources of protesters and large corporations obtaining these kind of anti-protest injunctions – particularly as legal aid is not generally available to challenge the injunctions themselves. This part of the appeal will be heard in the coming weeks.

Nicola Hall of Robert Lizar Solicitors represented the appellants, instructing counsel team Kirsty Brimelow QC and Adam Wagner of Doughty Street Chambers and Richard Brigden of Garden Court North chambers.

Share this

Blog

Blog

GCN’s Lucy Mair is part of the research team which produced the recent report: “Access to legal advice and representation for survivors of modern slavery”

Last week the Centre for the Study of International Slavery at the University of Liverpool, ANTI TRAFFICKING AND LABOUR EXPLOITATION UNIT (ATLEU) LIMITED and the Rights Lab at the University...

Blog

Free help for EU nationals to confirm their immigration status by 30 June 2021

It is now less than 8 weeks to go until the deadline for EU nationals to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme (Appendix EU of...

Blog

The judgment in Howard v Secretary of State for the Home Department and the good character requirement in Windrush cases

The case of Howard, R (On the Application Of) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2021] EWHC 1023 (Admin) is a tragic example...

Blog

Westminster Commission on Miscarriages of Justice | Report publication

The long-awaited report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Miscarriages of Justice Inquiry into the Criminal Cases Review Commission has been published. A copy of...

Sign up to our mailing list

Our mailing list is dedicated to professionals with an interest in our work.

Sign up