'Fracking and fossil-fuel companies are taking out “draconian” injunctions to block protesters at drilling sites linked with earthquakes and other environmental damage.
The legal action is being used to scare off local residents both from protesting at the sites and joining opposition groups online, lawyers told The Independent.
Since the end of 2017 oil and gas firms have taken out five injunctions covering 16 sites from Lancashire to Surrey in a bid to curb protesting.
Critics say this represents a new trend of companies taking excessive measures to drive away peaceful activists.
Anyone caught flouting the injunctions faces fines, seizure of assets and imprisonment.
The companies say they are interested only in discouraging unlawful behaviour, but local residents say uncertainty about the extent of the rules has caused the number of protesters to slump.
Because the injunctions are written in legal jargon and not directed at specific individuals, there is confusion about what constitutes a breach.
“Even if you get access to the information, the evidence for many campaigners is that the injunctions are so vague, unclear and confusing that you people just don’t know whether their activities will be breaching it,” said Stephanie Harrison QC, a lawyer involved in challenges against these injunctions.
She said people could be breaking the rules without realising it, for example by belonging to WhatsApp and Facebook groups organising or supporting anti-fracking campaigns.'
Read more: Surge in oil and gas companies using injunctions to block protesters at UK sites
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