In July 2018 Cuadrilla (a shale gas fracking company) obtained an interim injunction against 'Person(s) Unknown' and others in respect of protests at its fracking site in Lancashire - Preston New Road (PNR).

The injunction prohibited protestors from trespassing on the company’s site and surrounding farmland. It also prohibited:

  • unlawful obstruction of the entrance and main road, including by “lock-ons”  (chaining oneself to an object or another person to prevent access) and climbing onto, or slow walking in front of, vehicles entering or leaving the site; and 
  • unlawful disruption of named suppliers of Cuadrilla by, for example, blockading supplier properties. 

According to the Guardian report (see here) 3 protestors took part in a “lock-on” at PNR on 24 July 2018, less than a fortnight after the Court granted the injunction and it took the Police over 6 hours to separate them as they sat locked together at the entrance to the site. 

At the hearing for breach of the injunction which started on Tuesday this week, Cuadrilla said that the 3 protestors breached the injunction by conspiring to obstruct the highway and trespass on the site.

Our LSAssetProtect team regularly deal with protestor Injunctions against 'Person(s) Unknown', a number of which have been or are the subject of appeal including the Ineos case on which see our note here.  In Ineos, the Court of Appeal considered at length the law concerning claims against 'Person(s) Unknown' and found that there was 'no conceptual or legal prohibition on suing persons unknown who are not currently in existence but will come into existence when they commit the prohibited tort'.

In the Cuadrilla case the 3 protestors convicted for breaching the injunction were themselves 'Person(s) Unknown' at the time the injunction was granted. To put that another way they were not named as a party to the proceedings and it is assumed were not known (at least by name) to Cuadrilla at the time of issue.  

The Ineos case set out a number of requirements to be met before the Court should consider granting an injunction against 'Person Unknown' including in respect of effective notice of the Injunction stating that the method of such notice should be set out in the order itself. 

Cuadrilla gave notice of the injunction in various ways, including by posting details of it on their own website (see here)  and providing a link to a dropbox where all the relevant documents can be viewed. 

Whilst we await to see the judgment from the hearing this week, it would seem that the Court was satisfied that the 3 protestors were aware of the Injunction, that they became parties to the claim on breach and that it was beyond reasonable doubt that they committed the prohibited tort.

We understand that the Judge indicated that the 3 protestors would not receive a custodial sentence, but sentencing has been adjourned until later in the year.