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England and Wales High Court (Queen's Bench Division) Decisions


You are here: BAILII >> Databases >> England and Wales High Court (Queen's Bench Division) Decisions >> Shell UK Oil Products Ltd v Persons Unknown [2022] EWHC 1215 (QB) (20 May 2022)
URL: http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/QB/2022/1215.html
Cite as: [2022] EWHC 1215 (QB)

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Neutral Citation Number: [2022] EWHC 1215 (QB)
Case No: QB-2022-001420

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE
QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION

Royal Courts of Justice
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL
20 May 2022

B e f o r e :

MR JUSTICE JOHNSON
____________________

Between:
SHELL UK OIL PRODUCTS LIMITED Claimant
- and -

PERSONS UNKNOWN DAMAGING, AND/OR BLOCKING THE USE OF OR ACCESS TO ANY SHELL PETROL STATION IN ENGLAND AND WALES, OR TO ANY EQUIPMENT OR INFRASTRUCTURE UPON IT, BY EXPRESS OR IMPLIED AGREEMENT WITH OTHERS, IN CONNECTION WITH ENVIRONMENTAL PROTEST CAMPAIGNS WITH THE INTENTION OF DISRUPTING THE SALE OR SUPPLY OF FUEL TO OR FROM THE SAID STATION Defendants

____________________

Toby Watkin QC (instructed by CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang LLP) for the Claimant

Hearing date: 13 May 2022

____________________

HTML VERSION OF JUDGMENT APPROVED
____________________

Crown Copyright ©

    This judgment was handed down remotely by circulation to the parties' representatives by email and released to The National Archives. The date and time for hand-down is deemed to be 10am on 20 May 2022.

    Mr Justice Johnson :

  1. The claimant sells fossil fuels to those who run Shell branded petrol stations. The defendants are climate and environmental activists who say that the claimant's activities are destroying the planet. They engage in protests to draw attention to the issue and to encourage governmental and societal change.
  2. The claimant seeks to maintain an injunction that was granted on an emergency basis by McGowan J on 5 May 2022. It restrains the defendants from undertaking certain activities such as damaging petrol pumps and preventing motorists from entering petrol station forecourts when that is done to prevent the claimant from carrying on its business – see paragraph 20 below. The claimant recognises that the injunction interferes with rights of assembly and expression but contends that the interference is proportionate and justified to protect its rights to trade.
  3. The order of McGowan J was necessarily made without notice to the defendants or anybody else. McGowan J made provision for the order to be widely published (including at every Shell filling station in England and Wales, and to over 50 email addresses that are associated with protest groups). McGowan J also required that the order be reconsidered at a public hearing on 13 May 2022 so that the court could reconsider the continuation of the order, and its terms. This provided a specific opportunity for anyone affected by the order to seek to argue that it should be set aside or varied. In the event, nobody did so.
  4. Mrs Nancy Friel, who describes herself as an environmental activist, attended the hearing. She asked for the hearing to be adjourned so that she could secure representation and argue that the order should be set aside or varied. I declined the request to adjourn. It was important that this injunction, which was granted without notice to the defendants and which impacts on their rights of assembly and expression, was considered by a court at a public hearing without further delay. Continuing with the hearing does not prejudice any application that Mrs Friel (or anybody else) might wish to make to vary the order or to set it aside: the terms of the order itself permit such an application to be made (and see also rule 40.9 of the Civil Procedure Rules).
  5. Mrs Friel was concerned that the terms of the order require that any person who wishes to apply to vary or discharge the order must first apply to be joined as a named defendant. She did not consider that was appropriate, because she is not taking part in any unlawful activity and does not therefore come within the scope of the description of the defendants. There are two answers to that concern. First, the description of the "unknown" defendants does not prevent Mrs Friel from being added as a second defendant to the proceedings; she may be affected by the order – and may be entitled to be joined as a party – even if she does not come within that description. Second, if she otherwise has a right to apply to set aside the order without being joined as a party then she may do so under CPR 40.9, notwithstanding the terms of the order (see National Highways Limited v Persons Unknown [2022] EWHC 1105 (QB) per Bennathan J at [20]-[22] and Barking and Dagenham LBC v Persons Unknown [2022] EWCA Civ 13 per Sir Geoffrey Vos MR at [89]).
  6. It is not, however, appropriate to vary the terms of the order to give a general right to anyone (beyond that recognised by CPR 40.9) to apply to vary the order without first applying to be a party. That would risk going beyond the ambit of CPR 40.9: although that provision is stated in wide terms, in practice the circumstances in which a non-party may successfully apply to vary an order are more limited (see the commentary to CPR 40.9 in the 2022 White Book). There is therefore a risk of creating an unjustified advantage for such an applicant (for example, as regards costs) or an unjustified disadvantage for the claimant, without first considering the particular circumstances of the application. The question of whether it is necessary for a person to be joined as a party is best addressed (if and when the issue arises) as and when any application is made, and on the facts of the particular application.
  7. Factual background

  8. Benjamin Austin is the claimant's Health, Safety and Security Manager. He has provided two witness statements, supported with extensive exhibits. I take the account of events from his statements and exhibits.
  9. The claimant

  10. The claimant is part of a group of companies that are ultimately owned and controlled by Shell plc. It markets and sells fuels to retail customers in England and Wales through a network of 1,062 "Shell-branded" petrol stations ("Shell petrol stations"). The stations are operated by third party contractors, but the fuel is supplied by the claimant. In some cases, the claimant has an interest in the land where the Shell petrol station is located.
  11. Insulate Britain, Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion

  12. Insulate Britain, Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion are environmental protest groups that seek to influence government policy in respect of the fossil fuel industry, so as to mitigate climate change. These groups say that they are not violent. I was not shown any evidence to suggest that they have resorted to physical violence against others. They are, however, committed to protesting in ways that are unlawful, short of physical violence to the person. Their public websites demonstrate this, with references to "civil disobedience", "direct action", and a willingness to risk "arrest" and "jail time". The activities of their supporters also demonstrate this, as explained below.
  13. The protests

  14. In autumn 2021 a number of protests took place. These involved blocking major roads in the UK, including the M25, including by activists gluing themselves to roads, immovable objects, or each other. Injunctions to restrain such activities were made by the court on the application of National Highways Limited. There were many breaches of those injunctions. Committal proceedings were brought. Initially, the defendants to those proceedings evinced an intention to carry on with the protests in defiance of court orders. Orders for immediate imprisonment for contempt of court were imposed - see National Highways Ltd v Heyatawin [2021] EWHC 3078 (QB). Thereafter, unlawful protests in this form came to an end. In subsequent committal hearings, the respondents were unrepentant. They maintained that they were justified in their conduct because of the very great dangers of climate change. However, they did not demonstrate an intention to commit further breaches of court orders. Many indicated that they would find other, lawful, ways to draw attention to the climate crisis and to seek to influence government policy. The court responded by imposing orders of imprisonment for contempt of court that were suspended, subject to compliance with conditions imposed by the court – National Highways Ltd v Buse [2021] EWHC 3404 (QB) (per Dingemans LJ at [57]) and National Highways Ltd v Springorum [2022] EWHC 205 (QB) (per William Davis LJ at [65]).
  15. In spring 2022, protests involving similar tactics re-commenced, but directed at the fossil fuel industry rather than the road network. Reports include cases of protesters climbing onto fuel delivery lorries, cutting the air brake cables so that the lorries cannot move, tunnelling under roadways to seek to make them impassable to lorries, climbing onto equipment used for storage of fuels, and tampering with safety equipment, such as valves. One of these protests was at a terminal owned by the Shell Group.
  16. On 28 April 2022, there were protests at two petrol stations (one of which was a Shell petrol station) on the M25, Clacket Lane and Cobham. Protestors arrived at around 7am. Video, photographic and written evidence (largely deriving from the websites and media releases of protest groups) show that:
  17. (1) The entrance to the forecourts were blocked.

    (2) The display screens of fuel pumps were smashed with hammers.

    (3) The display screens of fuel pumps were obscured with spray paint.

    (4) The kiosks were "sabotaged… to stop the flow of petrol".

    (5) Protestors variously glued themselves to the floor, a fuel pump, the roof of a fuel tanker, or each other.

  18. A total of 55 fuel pumps were damaged (including 35 out of 36 pumps at Cobham) to the extent that they were not safe for use, and the whole forecourt had to be closed. Five people were arrested and charged with offences, including criminal damage. They are subject to bail conditions. The claimant has not sought to join them as individual named defendants to this claim because (in the case of four of them) it considers that, in the light of the bail conditions, there is not now a significant risk that they will carry out further similar activities, and (in the case of the fifth) it is not sufficiently clear that the conduct of that individual comes within the scope of the injunction.
  19. In April 2022 there were protests at an oil storage depot in Warwickshire, which is partly owned by the claimant. These involved the digging of a tunnel under a tanker route, to stop oil tankers leaving the terminal and distributing fuel. An injunction was granted on an application made by the local authority. Protests at the depot have continued. On 9 May 2022 drones were flown over the depot and along its external fence. The claimant thinks this may have been a form of reconnaissance by a group of protestors.
  20. On 3 May 2022 more than 50 protestors from Just Stop Oil attended the Nustar Clydebank Oil Depot in Glasgow. They climbed on top of tankers, locked themselves to the entrance of the terminal and climbed onto pipework at height. Their actions halted operations at the depot.
  21. The campaign orchestrated by these (and other) groups of environmental activists continues. Just Stop Oil's website says that the disruption will continue "until the government makes a statement that it will end new oil and gas projects in the UK."
  22. The claimant says that there is thus an ongoing risk of further incidents of a similar nature to those seen on 28 April 2022.
  23. The risks at petrol stations

  24. Aside from the physical damage that has been caused at the petrol stations, and the direct financial impact on the claimant (from lost sales), these types of protest give rise to additional potential risks. Petrol is highly flammable. Ignition can occur not just where an ignition source is brought into contact with the fuel itself, but also where there is a spark (for example from static electricity or the use of a device powered by electricity) in the vicinity of invisible vapour in the surrounding atmosphere. Such vapour does not disperse easily and can travel long distances. There is therefore close regulation, including by the Dangerous Substances and Explosives Atmosphere Regulations 2002, the Highway Code, Health and Safety Executive guidance on "Storing petrol safely" and "Dispensing petrol as a fuel: health and safety guidance for employees", and non-statutory guidance, "Petrol Filling Stations – Guidance on Managing the Risks of Fire and Explosions."
  25. The use of mobile telephones on the forecourt (outside a vehicle) is prohibited for that reason (see annex 6 to the Highway Code: "Never smoke, or use a mobile phone, on the forecourt of petrol stations as these are major fire risks and could cause an explosion."). The evidence shows that at the protests on 28 April 2022 protestors used mobile phones on the forecourts to photograph and film their activities. Further, as regards the use of hammers to damage pumps, Mr Austin says: "Breaking the pump screens with any implement could cause a spark and in turn potentially harm anyone in the vicinity. The severity of any vapour cloud ignition could be catastrophic and cause multiple fatalities. Unfortunately, Shell Group has tragically lost several service station employees in Pakistan in the last year when vapour clouds have been ignited during routine operations." I was not shown any positive evidence as to the risks posed by spray paint, glue or other solvents in the vicinity of fuel or fuel vapour, but I was told that this, too, was a potential cause for concern.
  26. The injunction

  27. The operative paragraphs of the injunction are:
  28. "2. For the period until 4pm on 12 May 2023, and subject to any further order of the Court, the Defendants must not do any of the acts listed in paragraph 3 of this Order in express or implied agreement with any other person, and with the intention of disrupting the sale or supply of fuel to or from a Shell Petrol Station.
    3. The acts referred to in paragraph 2 of this order are:
    3.1. blocking or impeding access to any pedestrian or vehicular entrance to a Shell Petrol Station or to a building within the Shell Petrol Station;
    3.2. causing damage to any part of a Shell Petrol Station or to any equipment or infrastructure (including but not limited to fuel pumps) upon it;
    3.3. operating or disabling any switch or other device in or on a Shell Petrol Station so as to interrupt the supply of fuel from that Shell Petrol Station, or from one of its fuel pumps, or so as to prevent the emergency interruption of the supply of fuel at the Shell Petrol Station.
    3.4. affixing or locking themselves, or any object or person, to any part of a Shell Petrol Station, or to any other person or object on or in a Shell Petrol Station;
    3.5. erecting any structure in, on or against any part of a Shell Petrol Station;
    3.6. spraying, painting, pouring, depositing or writing any substance on to any part of a Shell Petrol Station.
    3.7. encouraging or assisting any other person do any of the acts referred to in sub-paragraphs 3.1 to 3.6."
  29. Some of the conduct referred to in paragraph 3 is, in isolation, potentially innocuous ("depositing… any substance on… any part of a Shell Petrol Station" would, literally, cover the disposal of a sweet wrapper in a rubbish bin). The injunction does not prohibit such conduct. The structure is important. The injunction only applies to the defendants. The defendants are those who are "damaging, and/or blocking the use of or access to any Shell petrol station in England and Wales, or to any equipment or infrastructure upon it, by express or implied agreement with others, with the intention of disrupting the sale or supply of fuel to or from the said station." So, the prohibitions in the injunction only apply to those who fall within that description. Further, the order does not impose a blanket prohibition on the conduct identified in paragraph 3. It only does so where that conduct is undertaken "in express or implied agreement with any other person, and with the intention of disrupting the sale or supply of fuel to or from a Shell Petrol Station."
  30. It follows that while paragraph 3 is drafted quite widely, its impact is narrowed by the requirements of paragraph 2. This is deliberate. It is because the claimant is not able to maintain an action in respect of the activity in paragraph 3 (read in isolation) in respect of those Shell petrol stations where it has no interest in the land. It is only actionable where that conduct fulfils the ingredients of the tort of conspiracy to injure (as to which see paragraph 26 below). The terms of the injunction are therefore deliberately drafted so as only to capture conduct that amounts to the tort of conspiracy to injure.
  31. The legal controls on the grant of an injunction

  32. The injunction is sought on an interim basis before trial, rather than a final basis after trial. It is sought against "persons unknown". It is sought on a precautionary basis to restrain anticipated future conduct. It interferes with freedom of assembly and expression. For these reasons, the law imposes different tests that must all be satisfied before the order can be made. The claimant must demonstrate:
  33. (1) There is a serious question to be tried: American Cyanamid v Ethicon [1975] AC 396 per Lord Diplock at 407G.

    (2) Damages would not be an adequate remedy for the claimant, but a cross-undertaking in damages would adequately protect the defendants, or

    (3) The balance of convenience otherwise lies in favour of the grant of the order: American Cyanamid per Lord Diplock at 408C-F.

    (4) There is a sufficiently real and imminent risk of damage so as to justify the grant of what is a precautionary injunction: Islington London Borough Council v Elliott [2012] EWCA Civ 56 per Patten LJ at [28], Ineos Upstream Ltd v Persons Unknown [2019] EWCA Civ 515 [2019] 4 WLR 100 per Longmore LJ at [34], Canada Goose UK Retail Limited v Persons Unknown [2020] EWCA Civ 303 [2020] 1 WLR 2802 per Sir Terence Etherton MR at [82(3)].

    (5) The prohibited acts correspond to the threatened tort and only include lawful conduct if there is no other proportionate means of protecting the claimant's rights: Canada Goose at [78] and [82(5)].

    (6) The terms of the injunction are sufficiently clear and precise: Canada Goose at [82(6)].

    (7) The injunction has clear geographical and temporal limits: Canada Goose at [82(7)] (as refined and explained in Barking and Dagenham LBC v Persons Unknown [2022] EWCA Civ 13 per Sir Geoffrey Vos MR at [79] - [92]).

    (8) The defendants have not been identified but are, in principle, capable of being identified and served with the order: Canada Goose at [82(1)] and [82(4)].

    (9) The defendants are identified in the Claim Form (and the injunction) by reference to their conduct: Canada Goose at [82(2)].

    (10) The interferences with the defendants' rights of free assembly and expression are necessary for and proportionate to the need to protect the claimant's rights: articles 10(2) and 11(2) of the European Convention on Human Rights ("ECHR"), read with section 6(1) of the Human Rights Act 1998.

    (11) All practical steps have been taken to notify the defendants: section 12(2) of the Human Rights Act 1998.

    (12) The order does not restrain "publication", or, if it does, the claimant is likely to establish at trial that publication should not be allowed: section 12(3) of the Human Rights Act 1998.

  34. Section 12 Human Rights Act 1998 (see paragraphs 23(11) and (12) above) states:
  35. "12 Freedom of expression.
    (1) This section applies if a court is considering whether to grant any relief which, if granted, might affect the exercise of the Convention right to freedom of expression.
    (2) If the person against whom the application for relief is made ("the respondent") is neither present nor represented, no such relief is to be granted unless the court is satisfied—
    (a) that the applicant has taken all practicable steps to notify the respondent; or
    (b) that there are compelling reasons why the respondent should not be notified.
    (3) No such relief is to be granted so as to restrain publication before trial unless the court is satisfied that the applicant is likely to establish that publication should not be allowed.
    (4) The court must have particular regard to the importance of the Convention right to freedom of expression and, where the proceedings relate to material which the respondent claims, or which appears to the court, to be journalistic, literary or artistic material (or to conduct connected with such material), to—
    (a) the extent to which—
    (i) the material has, or is about to, become available to the public; or
    (ii) it is, or would be, in the public interest for the material to be published;
    (b) any relevant privacy code.
    (5) In this section—
    "court" includes a tribunal; and
    "relief" includes any remedy or order (other than in criminal proceedings)."

    (1) Serious issue to be tried

  36. The claimant has a strong case that on 28 April 2022 the defendants committed the activities identified in paragraph 3 of the draft order: those activities are shown in photographs and videos. There are apparent instances of trespass to goods (the damage to the petrol pumps and the application of glue), trespass to land (the general implied licence to enter for the purpose of purchasing petrol does not extend to what the defendants did) and nuisance (preventing access to the petrol stations). None of this gives rise to a right of action by the claimant in respect of those Shell petrol stations where it does not have an interest in the land and does not own the petrol pumps. It is therefore not, itself, able to maintain a claim in trespass or nuisance in respect of all Shell petrol stations.
  37. The claim advanced by the claimant is framed in the tort of conspiracy to injure by unlawful means ("conspiracy to injure"). The ingredients of that tort are identified in Cuadrilla Bowland Ltd v Persons Unknown [2020] EWCA Civ 9 [2020] 4 WLR 29 per Leggatt LJ at [18]: (a) an unlawful act by the defendant, (b) with the intention of injuring the claimant, (c) pursuant to an agreement with others, (d) which injures the claimant.
  38. As I have explained, the claimant has a strong case that the defendants have acted unlawfully. To establish the tort of conspiracy to injure, it is not necessary to show that the underlying unlawful conduct (to satisfy limb (a)) is actionable by the claimant. Criminal conduct which is not actionable in tort can suffice (so long as it is directed at the claimant): Revenue and Customs Commissioners v Total Network SL [2008] UKHL 19 [2008] 1 AC 1174 per Lord Walker at [94] and Lord Hope at [44]. A breach of contract can also suffice, even though it is not actionable by the claimant: The Racing Partnership Ltd v Done Bros (Cash Betting) Ltd [2020] EWCA Civ 1300 [2021] Ch 233 per Arnold LJ at [155].
  39. The question of whether a tort, or a breach of statutory duty, can suffice was left open by the Supreme Court in JST BTS Bank v Ablyaszov (No 14) [2018] UKSC 19 [2020] AC 727. Lord Sumption and Lord Lloyd-Jones observed, at [15], that the issue was complex, not least because it might – in the case of a breach of statutory duty – depend on the purpose and scope of the underlying statute and whether that is consistent "with its deployment as an element in the tort of conspiracy."
  40. For the purposes of the present case, it is not necessary to decide whether a breach of statutory duty can found a claim for conspiracy to injure, or whether every (other) tort can do so. It is only necessary to decide whether the claimant has established a serious issue to be tried as to whether the torts that are here in play may suffice as the unlawful act necessary to found a claim for conspiracy to injure. Those torts involve interference with rights in land and goods where those rights are being exercised for the benefit of the claimant (where the petrol station is being operated under the claimant's brand, selling the claimant's fuel). Recognising the torts as capable of supporting a claim in conspiracy to injure does not undermine or undercut the rationale for those torts. It would be anomalous if a breach of contract (where the existence of the cause of action is dependent on the choice of the contracting parties) could support a claim for conspiracy to injure, but a claim for trespass could not do so. Likewise, it would be anomalous if trespass to goods did not suffice given that criminal damage does. I am therefore satisfied that the claimant has established a serious issue to be tried in respect of a relevant unlawful act.
  41. There is no difficulty in establishing a serious issue to be tried in respect of the remaining elements of the tort. The intention of the defendants' unlawful activities is plain from their conduct and from the published statements on the websites of the protest groups: it is to disrupt the sale of fuel in order to draw attention to the contribution that fossil fuels make to climate change. They are not solitary activities but are protests involving numbers of activists acting in concert. They therefore apparently undertake their protest activities in agreement with one another. Loss is occasioned because the petrol stations are unable to sell the claimant's fuel.
  42. I am therefore satisfied that there is a serious issue to be tried.
  43. Further, the evidence advanced by the claimant appears credible and is supported by material that is published by the groups to which the defendants appear to be aligned. That evidence is therefore likely to be accepted at trial. I would (if this had been a trial) wished to have clearer and more detailed evidence (perhaps including expert evidence) as to the risks that arise from the use of mobile phones, glue and spray paint in close proximity to fuel, but it is not necessary precisely to calibrate those risks to determine this application. It is also, I find, likely that the court at trial will adopt the legal analysis set out above in respect of the tort of conspiracy to injure (including, in particular, that the necessary unlawful act could be a tort that is not itself actionable by the claimant). It follows that not only is there a serious issue to be tried, but the claimant is also more likely than not to succeed at trial in establishing its claim.
  44. (2) Adequacy of damages

  45. The claimant asserts that damages are not an adequate remedy because they could not be quantified. It is difficult to see why that should be so. Any losses ought to be capable of assessment. For example, loss of sales can be assessed by (broadly) identifying the time period when sales were affected, and comparing the sales made during that period with the sales made during the equivalent period the previous week. The possible difficulties in calculation are not a convincing reason for concluding that damages are an inadequate remedy.
  46. There is, though, no evidence that the defendants have the financial means to satisfy an award of damages. It is very possible that any award of damages would not, practically, be enforceable. Further, the defendants' conduct gives rise to potential health and safety risks. If such risks materialise then they could not adequately be remedied by way of an award of damages to the claimant.
  47. For these reasons, damages are not an adequate remedy for the claimant.
  48. Conversely, if any defendant sustains loss as a result of the injunction, then the claimant undertakes to pay any damages which the court considers ought to be paid. It has the means to satisfy any such order. The injunction interferes with rights of expression and assembly, but it does not impact on the core of those rights. It does not prevent the defendants from congregating and expressing their opposition to the claimant's conduct (including in a loud or disruptive fashion, in a location close to Shell petrol stations), so long as it is not done in a way which involves the unlawful conduct prohibited by paragraphs 2 and 3 of the injunction. To the extent that there is an interference with rights of assembly and expression then (if a court subsequently finds that to be unjustified) that can be met by the cross-undertaking: interferences with such rights to assembly and expression can be remedied by an award of damages, even where the loss is not monetary in nature (see section 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998).
  49. So, while damages are not an adequate remedy for the claimant, the cross-undertaking in damages is an adequate remedy for the defendants.
  50. (3) Balance of convenience

  51. The fact that damages are not an adequate remedy for the claimant but that the cross-undertaking is adequate protection for the defendants means that it may not be necessary separately to consider the balance of convenience.
  52. In any event, the balance of convenience favours the grant of injunctive relief. If an injunction is not granted, then there is a risk of substantial damage to the claimant's legal rights which might not be capable of remedy. Conversely, it is open to the defendants (or anybody else that is affected by the injunction) at any point to apply to vary or set aside the order. Further, although the injunction has a wide effect, there are both temporal and geographical restrictions. It will only run for a maximum of a year before having to be reconsidered by a court. It only applies to Shell petrol stations (not other places where the claimant does business).
  53. (4) Real and imminent risk of harm

  54. Harm has already occurred as a result of the protests on 28 April 2022. The risk of repetition is demonstrated by the further protests that have occurred since then, and the public statements that have been made by protest groups as to their determination to continue with similar activities.
  55. If the claimant is given sufficient warning of a protest that would involve a conspiracy to injure, then it can seek injunctive relief in respect of that specific event. If there were grounds for confidence that such warnings will be given, then the risk now (in advance of any such warning) might not be sufficiently imminent to justify a more general injunction. There is some indication that protest groups sometimes engage with the police and give prior warning of planned activities. But it is unlikely that sufficient warning would be given to enable an injunction to be obtained. That would be self-defeating. Further, it is not always the case that warnings are given. Extinction Rebellion say in terms (on its website) that it will not always give such warnings. Moreover, the claimant did not receive sufficient (or any) warning of the activities on 28 April 2022.
  56. Accordingly, I am satisfied that this application is not premature, and that the risk now is sufficiently imminent. The claimant may not have a further opportunity to seek an injunction before a further protest causes actionable harm.
  57. (5) Prohibited acts to correspond to the threatened tort

  58. The acts that are prohibited by the injunction necessarily amount to conduct that constitutes the tort of conspiracy to injure. The structure and terms of the injunction have been drafted to achieve that.
  59. It would be permissible for an injunction to prohibit behaviour which is otherwise lawful (or which is not actionable by the claimant) if there are no other proportionate means of protecting the claimant's rights. The claimant does not contend that is the case here, because an order that closely corresponds to the threatened tort will afford adequate protection. I agree.
  60. (6) Terms sufficiently clear and precise

  61. The terms of the injunction (see paragraph 20 above) are in clear and simple language that avoids technical legal expression.
  62. It is usually desirable that such terms should, so far as possible, be based on objective conduct rather than subjective intention. The drafting of paragraph 3 satisfies that criterion. There is an element of subjective intention in paragraph 2 ("with the intention of disrupting the sale or supply of fuel to or from a Shell Petrol Station") but that is unavoidable because of the nature of the tort of conspiracy to injure. It is the inevitable price to be paid for closely tracking the tort. The alternative would be to leave out the subjective element and focus only on the objective conduct. That would give wider protection than is necessary or proportionate. It is also necessary to introduce the language of intention to avoid some of the prohibitions having a much broader effect than could ever be justified (for example, the sweet wrapper example at paragraph 21 above).
  63. (7) Clear geographical and temporal limits

  64. There are clear geographical limits to the order: it applies only to Shell petrol stations.
  65. It is convenient, at this point, to address the question of whether those geographical limits can be justified as being no more than is necessary and proportionate to protect the claimant's interests (so as to ensure compatibility with articles 10 and 11 ECHR – see paragraphs 55-62 below). The only Shell petrol station where acts of conspiracy to injure have occurred so far is on the M25. It is perhaps unsurprising that petrol stations of that profile (large, and on the London orbital motorway) have been targeted. It would be possible to grant an injunction that only applied to the station that has been targeted, but that would leave many other petrol stations vulnerable. The claimant's interests would not be sufficiently protected. It would be possible to fashion an injunction that only targeted certain types of petrol station (for example, those on motorways, or those on trunk roads). Again, that would not properly protect the claimant's interests because there would be plenty of other available targets. It is possible to envisage that the risk at some individual Shell petrol stations is very low, but it is not practical to draft the order in a way that excludes such petrol stations: that would be self-defeating because any excluded station would then be at a heightened risk. I have concluded that the ambit of coverage is justified as being necessary and proportionate to protect the claimant's interests.
  66. There is also a clear temporal limit. It will not last for longer than 12 months, without a further order of the court. Canada Goose, on one view, might suggest (and at first instance in the cases that led to Barking and Dagenham was taken as suggesting) that interim orders should not last for as long as this, that there is an obligation to progress litigation to a final hearing, and that an interim order should only be imposed for so long as is necessary for the case to be progressed to a final hearing. However, the notion that there is a fundamental difference between what can be justified by an interim order, and what can be justified by a final order, was dispelled in Barking and Dagenham. In that case, Sir Geoffrey Vos MR made it clear that both interim and final orders should be time-limited, and that it is good practice to provide for a review. Sir Geoffrey Vos MR agreed with the suggestion of Coulson LJ in Canada Goose that "persons unknown injunctions against unauthorised encampments should be limited in time, perhaps to one year at a time before a review." I do not consider it appropriate to grant this interim injunction for longer than a year. But I consider that a year can be justified (bearing in mind the right to apply to vary or set aside at any earlier point). The pattern of protest activity is unpredictable. Providing a much shorter time period might mean that the court will be in no better position then than it is now to predict what is necessary to protect the claimant's interests. Moreover, the period of a year will allow the claimant to progress the litigation so that if continued restraint is necessary after the current order expires the court may have the option of making a final order (albeit, as Barking and Dagenham shows, that too will have to be time-limited).
  67. (8) Persons unknown are unidentified but could, in principle, be identified and served

  68. Five of those who took part in the protests on 28 April 2022 have been identified. For the reasons explained at paragraph 13 above, the claimant does not seek injunctive relief against them. Others who were involved on 28 April 2022, and others who may undertake such activities in the future, have not been identified. In principle, as and when they take part in such protests, they could be identified and could then be personally served with court documents.
  69. In the interim, the issue as to how service should take place was the subject of careful consideration by McGowan J and is reflected in the order that was made on 5 May 2022. That provides on the face of the order that the matter would be considered by the court on 13 May 2022. It also provides that the claimant must send a copy of the order to more than 50 email addresses that are linked with the protest groups. That was done. It also provides that a copy should be made available on the claimant's website "shell.co.uk". Again, that was done. The frontpage of the website contains a link, with the text "Notice of injunction", from which the court documents, including the order of 5 May 2022, can be downloaded. The order also requires that the claimant use all reasonable endeavours to display notices at the entrances of every Shell Petrol station (and also elsewhere within the station) that identify a point of contact from which the order can be requested and identify a website where it can be downloaded. At the time of the hearing, the claimant had done this in respect of well over 50% of Shell petrol stations.
  70. As to the future, there is good reason to make slight adjustments to the order that was made by McGowan J. That order was designed only to cover the short period between 5 May 2022 and 13 May 2022. The injunction will (subject to any further order) now remain in place for a longer period of time. It is appropriate therefore to require the claimant not just to take steps to ensure that the notices are displayed at the Shell petrol stations, but also now to take steps to ensure that those notices remain in place. On the other hand, the order made by McGowan J required a degree of saturation (notices on every entrance to the petrol station, and on every upright steel structure forming part of the canopy infrastructure, and every entrance door to every retail establishment at the petrol station). That was appropriate to ensure initial notification of the existence of the order, but it is logistically difficult to maintain in the long term. It remains necessary for there to be clear notices at every Shell petrol station that draw attention to the injunction, but I do not consider that it remains necessary for these to be displayed on every single upright steel structure. It is also possible to make the order a little more flexible. That will ensure that notices are clearly visible but that the precise mechanism by which this is done can be tailored to the circumstances of individual petrol stations. I will adjust the order accordingly. This means that it is practically unlikely that a defendant could embark on conduct that would be in breach of the injunction without knowing of its existence.
  71. By these means I am satisfied that effective service on the defendants can continue to take place.
  72. (9) Persons unknown are identified by reference to their conduct

  73. The persons unknown are described in the claim form, and in the injunction, in the way set out in the heading to this judgment. That description is in clear and simple language and relates to their conduct. It is usually desirable that such descriptions should, so far as possible, be based on objective conduct rather than subjective intention. The description that has been used does that. There is an element of subjective intention ("with the intention of disrupting the sale or supply of fuel to or from the said station") but (as with the terms of the injunction) that is unavoidable because of the nature of the tort of conspiracy to injure.
  74. (10) Is the injunction necessary for and proportionate to the need to protect the claimant's rights?

  75. The injunction interferes with the defendants' rights to assemble and express their opposition to the fossil fuel industry.
  76. Unless such interference can be justified, it is incompatible with the defendants' rights under articles 10 and 11 ECHR and may not therefore be granted (see sections 1 and 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998). Articles 10 and 11 ECHR are not absolute rights. Interferences with those rights can be justified where they are necessary and proportionate to the need to protect the claimant's rights: articles 10(2) and 11(2) ECHR. Proportionality is assessed by considering if (i) the aim is sufficiently important to justify interference with a fundamental right, (ii) there is a rational connection between the means chosen and the aim in view, (iii) there is no less intrusive measure which could achieve that aim, and (iv) a fair balance has been struck between the rights of the defendants and the general interest of the community, including the rights of others: DPP v Ziegler [2021] UKSC 23 [2022] AC 408 per Lord Sales JSC at [125].
  77. Here, the aim is to protect the claimant's right to carry on its business. On the other hand, the defendants are motivated by matters of the greatest importance. The defendants might say that there is an overwhelming global scientific consensus that the business in which the claimant is engaged is contributing to the climate crisis and is thereby putting the world at risk, and that the claimant's interests pale into insignificance by comparison. This is not, however, "a particularly weighty factor: otherwise judges would find themselves according greater protection to views which they think important" – City of London v Samede [2012] EWCA Civ 160 [2012] 2 All ER 1039 per Lord Neuberger at [41]. It is not for the court, on this application, to adjudicate on the important underlying political and policy issues raised by these protests. It is for Parliament to determine whether legal restrictions should be imposed on the trade in fossil fuels. That is why the defendants' actions are directed at securing a change in Government policy. The claimant is entitled to ask the court to uphold and enforce its legal rights, including its right to engage in a lawful business without tortious interference. Those rights are prescribed by law and their enforcement is necessary in a democratic society. The aim of the injunction is therefore sufficiently important to justify interferences with the defendants' rights of assembly and expression: cf Ineos Upstream v Persons Unknown [2017] EWHC 2945 per Morgan J at [105] and Cuadrilla per Leggatt LJ at [45] and [50].
  78. There is a rational connection between the terms of the injunction and the aim that it seeks to achieve. As explained at paragraphs 43-44 above, the terms are constructed so as only to prohibit activity that would amount to the tort of conspiracy to injure. That also means that the terms are no more intrusive than necessary to achieve the aim of the injunction. For the reasons given above (at paragraphs 47-49) the territorial and temporal provisions within the injunction are no more than is necessary to achieve its aim.
  79. The injunction also strikes a fair balance between the important rights of the defendants to assembly and expression, and the rights of the claimant. It protects the latter so far as it is necessary to do so, but no further. It does not remove the rights of the defendants to assemble and express their opposition to the fossil fuel industry. It does not prevent them from expressing their views (including in a way that is noisy and/or otherwise disruptive) in close proximity to places where that industry takes place (including Shell petrol stations). It does not therefore prevent activities that are "at the core of these Convention rights" or which form "the essence" of such rights – see DPP v Cuciurean [2022] EWHC 736 per Lord Burnet of Maldon CJ at [31], [36] and [46]. Although the defendants' activities come within the scope of articles 10 and 11, they are right at the margin of what is protected.
  80. All that is prohibited is specified deliberate tortious conduct (in one sense deliberate doubly tortious conduct, because of the nature of conspiracy to injure) that is carried out as part of an agreement and with the intention of harming the claimant's lawful business interests. It would not strike a fair balance between the competing rights simply to leave matters to the police to enforce the criminal law. Such enforcement could only, practicably, take place after the event, meaning that loss to the claimant is inevitable. Moreover, some of the activities that the injunction seeks to restrain are not breaches of the criminal law and could not be enforced by the exercise of conventional policing functions.
  81. In Cuadrilla Leggatt LJ said (at [94]-[95]):
  82. "… the disruption caused was not a side-effect of protest held in a public place but was an intended aim of the protest... this is an important distinction. …intentional disruption of activities of others is not "at the core" of the freedom protected by article 11 of the Convention …. one reason for this [is] that the essence of the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression is the opportunity to persuade others… …persuasion is very different from attempting (through physical obstruction or similar conduct) to compel others to act in a way you desire.
    Where… individuals not only resort to compulsion to try to stop lawful activities of others of which they disapprove, but do so in deliberate defiance of a court order, they have no reason to expect their conscientious motives will insulate them from the sanction of imprisonment." [original emphasis]
  83. The context was different (the case was concerned with an appeal against an order for committal), but the same essential distinction applies to the fair balance question. Here, the injunction restrains protests which have as their aim (rather than as a side-effect) intentional unlawful interference with the claimant's activities.
  84. (11) Notification of defendants

  85. Section 12(2) of the Human Rights Act 1998 (see paragraph 24 above) requires that the claimant has taken all practical steps to notify the defendants of its application, or else that there are compelling reasons not to notify the defendants.
  86. The identity of the defendants is unknown. It was thus impossible to serve them personally with the application. As explained at paragraph 51 above, McGowan J made extensive directions in respect of the service of the injunction (which contains details of the return date).
  87. By these means, I am satisfied that the claimant has taken all practical steps to notify the defendants of its application (and I note that Mrs Friel was aware of the application, because she attended the hearing).
  88. (12) Does the order restrain "publication"?

  89. The injunction affects the exercise of the Convention right to freedom of expression. Section 12(3) of the Human Rights Act 1998 (see paragraph 24 above) provides that "[n]o such relief is to be granted so as to restrain publication before trial unless the court is satisfied that the applicant is likely to establish that publication should not be allowed."
  90. Nothing in the injunction explicitly restrains publication of anything. Nor does it have that effect. The defendants can publish anything they wish without breaching the injunction. The activities that the injunction restrains do not include publication. It does not, for example, restrain the publication of photographs and videos of the protests that have already taken place. Nor does it prevent anyone from, for example, chanting anything, or from displaying any message on any placard or from placing any material on any website or social media site.
  91. Lord Nicholls explained the origin of section 12(3) in Cream Holdings Limited v Banerjee [2004] UKHL 44 [2005] 1 AC 253 (at [15]). There was concern that the incorporation of article 8 ECHR into domestic law might result in the courts readily granting interim applications to restrain the publication by newspapers (or others) of material that interferes with privacy rights. Parliament enacted section 12(3) to address that concern, by setting a high threshold for the grant of an interim injunction in such a case. It codifies the prior restraint principle that previously operated at common law. The policy motivation that gave rise to section 12(3) has no application here.
  92. The word "publication" does not have an unduly narrow meaning so as to apply only to commercial publications: "publication does not mean commercial publication, but communication to a reader or hearer other than the claimant" – Lachaux v Independent Print Limited [2019] UKSC 27 [2020] AC 612 per Lord Sumption at [18]. Lord Sumption's observation was made in the context of defamation, but Parliament legislated against this well-established backdrop. Section 12(3) should be applied accordingly so that "publication" covers "any form of communication": Birmingham City Council v Asfar [2019] EWHC 1560 (QB) per Warby J at [60].
  93. The meaning set out by Lord Sumption in Lachaux is sufficient to achieve the underlying policy intention. There is therefore no good reason for giving the word "publication" an artificially broad meaning so as to cover (for example) demonstrative acts of trespass in the course of a protest. Such acts are intended to publicise the protestor's views, but they do not amount to a publication.
  94. Further, the wording of section 12 itself indicates that the word "publication" has a narrower reach than the term "freedom of expression". That is because the term "freedom of expression" is expressly used in the side-heading to section 12, and in section 12(1), and is used (by reference ("no such relief")) in section 12(2) and section 12(3). The term "publication" is then used in section 12(3) to signify one form of expression. If Parliament had intended section 12(3) to apply to all forms of expression, then there would have been no need to introduce the word "publication".
  95. I therefore respectfully agree with the observation of Lavender J in National Highways Limited v Persons Unknown [2021] EWHC 3081 (QB) at [41] that section 12(3) is "not applicable" in this context.
  96. It is, though, necessary to address the decisions in Ineos Upstream v Persons Unknown [2017] EWHC 2945. That case concerned an injunction that appears to have been similar in scope to the injunction in the present case. At first instance, Morgan J held (a) that section 12(3) applied (at [86]) and (b) the statutory test was satisfied because if the court accepted the evidence put forward by the claimants, then it would be likely, at trial, to grant a final injunction (at [98] and [105]). As to the applicability of section 12(3), Morgan J found the injunction that he was considering might affect the exercise of the right to freedom of expression. That was plainly correct, because the injunction restrained activities that were intended to express support for a particular cause. It does not, however, necessarily follow that section 12(3) is engaged (because, as above, "publication" is not the same as "expression"). There does not appear to have been any argument on that point – rather the focus was on the question of whether there was an interference with the right to freedom of expression. To the extent that Morgan J in Ineos and Lavender J in National Highways reached different conclusions about the applicability of section 12(3) in this context, I respectfully adopt the latter's approach for the reasons I have given.
  97. On appeal ([2019] EWCA Civ 515 [2019] 4 WLR 100), there was no challenge to the holding of Morgan J that section 12(3) applies. The Court of Appeal did not therefore consider or rule on that question. It did not need to do so because it was not in issue. The only issue in relation to section 12(3) was whether (on the assumed basis that it applied) the judge was wrong to approach the statutory test without subjecting the claimants' evidence to critical scrutiny. In that respect, the court accepted the "submissions of principle" and remitted the case for the judge to reconsider "whether interim relief should be granted in the light of section 12(3) HRA."
  98. The Court of Appeal decision in Ineos is authority for the approach that should be taken where section 12(3) applies, but (because it was assumed rather than determined that section 12(3) applied) I do not consider that it is authority that section 12(3) applies in the circumstances of the present case: Re Hetherington [1990] Ch 1 per Sir Nicholas Lord Browne Wilkinson VC at 10, R (Khadim) v Brent London Borough Council Housing Benefit Review Board [2001] QB 955 per Buxton LJ at [33] and [38].
  99. Ineos does not therefore determine that section 12(3) applies to a case such as the present where there is no question of restraining the defendants from publishing anything. Ineos does not mandate a finding in this case that section 12(3) applies. I have concluded that section 12(3) does not apply. If I am wrong, then I have, anyway, found that the claimant is likely to succeed at a final trial (see paragraph 32 above).
  100. Outcome

  101. The claimant succeeds in securing the continuation of the order made by McGowan J so as to restrain, for a period of up to a year, at any Shell petrol station, the specified acts of the defendants (set out at paragraph 20 above) that amount to a conspiracy to injure the claimant.


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