HS2 granted route-wide injunction to tackle environmental protests | HS2

A high court judge has granted a route-wide injunction to HS2 to prevent environmental protesters from accessing hundreds of miles of land earmarked for the controversial route. It is thought to be one of the largest injunctions of its kind against protesters granted by a court.

HS2 and the secretary of state for transport, the claimants in the case, applied to the high court for the route-wide injunction on 22 March, arguing that unlawful protests had hindered construction of the route. The claimants said the protesters had committed offences of trespass and nuisance.

Dozens of environmental activists opposed the injunction application and some gave evidence during the court hearing.

An appeal is now being considered, according to lawyers representing one of the environmental activists. Nicola Hall of Robert Lizar solicitors, representing the activist James Knaggs, said: “This is a disappointing outcome. This injunction represents a concerning extension of the powers of a state-owned limited company to control and police large swathes of land across England. There is a concern that it constitutes a wide-ranging restriction on protests opposed to HS2 and is of extremely large geographical scope. It applies to very large areas of land, much of which is unfenced and unmarked.”

In the judgment handed down on Tuesday Mr Justice Knowles said: “I am satisfied that the risk of trespass and nuisance will continue unless restrained.”

In evidence to the court, environmental protesters said HS2 “would hammer another nail into the coffin of the climate crisis”.

Although the judge accepted that “massive tracts of land are potentially affected”, he said he was satisfied that “there has been significant violence, criminality, and sometimes risk to the life of the activists, HS2 staff and contractors”.

The activists gave evidence that the injunction would prevent their ability to protest peacefully against HS2.

The judge said that he was granting an interim rather than a final injunction.

“The right to peaceful protest has long been cherished by the common law … however these rights are not unlimited. I reject the suggestion that the injunction will have an unlawful, chilling effect. There are safeguards built in.”

He added: “I consider that the injunction sought strikes a fair balance between the rights of the individual protesters and the general right and interests of HS2 and others who are being affected by the protests, including the national economy.”

However, the judge did raise concerns about a particular restraint technique applied to a protester by HS2 contractors that was viewed on a video clip in which the contractor was seen to be kneeling on a protester’s neck. Staffordshire police investigated the incident at the time and decided no further action would be necessary.

“One does not need to think of George Floyd to know that is an incredibly dangerous thing to do,” the judge said. Floyd was murdered by a US police officer who kneeled on his neck in Minneapolis on 25 May 2020.

Knowles urged HS2 to take steps to ensure dangerous restraint techniques were not used in the future.

A spokesperson for HS2 Ltd said: “HS2 Ltd welcomes this judgment and its approval of the route-wide injunction. As Justice Knowles makes clear, this injunction will not, and is not intended to, stop legitimate protest. Instead, we hope the injunction will prevent the violence, intimidation and criminal damage these protests have frequently caused, harming the HS2 project and those working on it, and costing the UK taxpayer millions of pounds.”

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