Friday, August 10, 2007

up the injunction

It was the widest-ranging injunction ever applied for in British courts. It was a breath-taking attempt at a draconian slapdown of peaceful protesters by a giant corporation. They were using anti-stalker laws against the Womens’ Institute. They claimed that, with their tanks and guns, they were vulnerable to attack from a group of unarmed people who have made a commitment not to attempt to breach the perimeter.

Perhaps the scariest part was the fact that the attempted injunction was without time limit. As climate activism increases - and it's not going to do anything else - then Heathrow, as the biggest climate-change site in the UK, will become more and more of a target for action.

An indefinite injunction would've even covered the residents of Sipson in a decade’s time as they tried to prevent the demolition of their town for the third runway. BAA wants to bulldoze the whole community, houses, school, pubs, the lot, and yet apparently it's BAA who need protecting.


Frankly, though, I feel the real villain here is not so much BAA as their lawyer, Timothy Lawson-Cruttenden. He cold-calls corporations that are the target of protest and offers his services to secure injunctions.

Iain Banks' superb novel Complicity features William Sorrell, who makes his money in 'non-ethical investment'. If the smart but ethical money is getting out of certain companies, the dividends have to be bigger for the unethical money that takes its place. All you need is a total absence of conscience.

Timothy Lawson-Cruttenden - in marked contrast to his initials of TLC - has worked for numerous vivisectors, GM crop companies, arms manufacturers and the like. SchNEWS explains

He’s made his living from introducing what amounts to PFI martial law around some of Babylon’s more noxious manifestations, pleading over twenty injunctions, banging up activists and attempting to seize their homes along the way. By twisting the Protection from Harassment Act, originally presented as protecting vulnerable people from stalkers (and which he helped draft by the way; now there’s an eye for an opportunity), into a charter for corporate repression he’s made a tidy pile.

Not content with having written the law, TLC’s legal chicanery has become notorious. Stunts include: being warned for re-writing judgements in his favour to secure disclosure from the police; amending particulars of claim (i.e. allegations made against individuals) days before going to court and deluging the court with irrelevant material. This might just be incompetence but it has the knock-on effect of upping the costs of the action meaning that anyone contesting the injunction runs the risk of bankruptcy. Judges have even forced him at times to employ barristers to sort out his messes!

Evidence of his instigation of the whole thing came out in court. He'd started working on some of the injunction documents in February. The Camp only chose Heathrow in May. For most of the time he's been working on the injunction there hasn't even been a target industry, let alone a company. Hence him reading out all kinds of irrelevances like Earth First! manuals on treespiking.

No order was ever sought or made against the Camp for Climate Action itself, though. TLC said it was impossible to find Camp people to injunct. He hadn't tried ringing either of the published phone numbers, writing to any of the published email addresses or either of the published postal addresses, come to any of the pre-advertised open public meetings, nor asked the police who it was from the Camp that convened a meeting with them and other emergency services to ensure the Camp runs safely.

The naming of people like AirportWatch seems a clear attempt to scare off the ‘moderates’ as they move to an ever more radical position.

Lawson-Cruttenden was quoted as saying 'I never sought to injunct five million law-abiding individuals', yet despite this and the absurdity of attempting to do so, right into his closing speech to the court he made plain that he wanted the injunction against all the named groups, their members and supporters.

Much of the banning from public transport stuff was dropped; Transport for London had sent their lawyers along for the defence(!), so it was difficult for TLC to argue that the tube would be affected when someone could - and did - stand up and basically say 'we're the tube and it's not a problem'.

TLC's injunction was so muddled that the judge (and bear in mind this is a High Court judge who really knows about these things) couldn't understand exactly what was being asked for. In the end, she made up her own injunction and handed that down.

It was a monumental defeat for TLC and BAA. They wanted it to be criminal, it was only civil (so it doesn't have the power of arrest). They wanted it to be indefinite, it lasts for less than a month. They wanted to cover anything in 'the vicinity' of Heathrow and thereby outlaw the Camp, but it only covers Heathrow itself and so the Camp is legal. They wanted to injunct five million people, but only got one small group and three named individuals, and even they can all perfectly legally come to the Camp.

If you want a solid measure of who won, follow the money. BAA were ordered to pay all the costs for the three groups struck off. The one group named, Plane Stupid, do not have to pay any costs as the injunction requested is so different to the one granted. All the legal bills are payable by BAA, none by the protesters.


So, because of all the weird misreports, let's be clear what happened in court and what the injunction actually says and means.

Three out of the four groups were 'struck out', that is to say removed entirely from the injunction; Hacan, AirportWatch and NoTRAG. Only Plane Stupid are mentioned.

Crucially, the claim under the Protection from Harassment Act was rejected. The judge refused to grant such an injunction pre-emptively, saying that defining harassment depends on the circumstances of the incident and is almost impossible to define in advance. There's been no history of anyone doing anything to Heathrow, and harassment has to be a repeated course of conduct.

This means the injunction granted is civil, not criminal. As such, it carries no powers of arrest except against the three individuals named on it. So if you were in breach they'd have to ask you to stand still while they ran off to London, got an emergency session of High Court judges to give permission to arrest you, then came back for you. In effect, it does not make anything illegal, it just adds possible additional penalties to things already illegal.

It prohibits all members or supporters of Plane Stupid, or anyone acting in concert with them or their aims, from causing disruption at Heathrow during August 2007. They are not to enter Heathrow's land, impede or prevent access or egress, or incite, aid or abet anyone to do so.


How this all played in the media was curious. As Lord Justice Greer once observed, 'the probabilities are all against what one reads in the newspapers. If it is a subject you happen to know something about yourself, you always find the papers are wrong'.

BAA didn't wait for the end of the court hearing before spinning it to the media as a great victory for them. Evening freebie The London Paper ran this front cover

The London Paper: Heathrow Kicks Out Eco-Demo

'Heathrow Doesn't Kick Out Eco-Demo' would be closer to the truth. It quoted the judge as saying 'I am satisfied that the terms of the injunction are no wider than necessary'. But of course she is - they're the terms she made up! Terms that are - and I quote her ruling directly - 'nothing like as wide ranging as that sought'.

The Guardian's leader comment said

the airport is right to worry about campaign leaflets promising "Heathrow will be closed"

even though no such leaflet exists.

Radio 4's PM programme did an interview with Craig Logan from the Camp. All the stuff he said about what the Camp would be like and the workshops and discussions, and the whole thing being part of a wider movement was cut out, and they just went for the stuff about potential disruption.

Editing for space and going for the juicy bits is fair enough though, right? But this wasn't just editing for space. They snipped out the word 'ordinary' from his sentence 'this is about ordinary people from all over the country coming together near Heathrow'.

Over at their News website the BBC were less evil and sensationalist, just simply confused.

The ban will not apply to AirportWatch, an umbrella group covering five million people including members of the RSPB and National Trust, because it is too large to define.

But it will cover Plane Stupid and certain members of two other groups - Hacan Clearskies and the No Third Runway Action Group - if they were intent on unlawful action.

No, it covers anyone, from any group or otherwise, intent on unlawful action.

As the injunctees and Camp representatives met the press the real story started to come out, though.

A spokesperson for the Camp read out this statement on the steps of the High Court

The Camp for Climate Action is going ahead.

We accuse BAA of abusing people's right to freedom of expression.

We accuse BAA of pushing for the expansion of airports in the full knowledge that it will lead directly to climate change and indirectly to the deaths of millions.

We accuse BAA of lying to local people, having first promised an end to the expansion of Heathrow in 1978.

We accuse BAA of being climate criminals. A crime for which they cannot be punished under UK law and which the government is actively supporting them in committing.

If you accept the right to life of the millions of people that will die because of climate change, then you can't stand by. Serious and immediate action becomes essential.

Today we are sending out a call to anyone

- that believes that BAA are the real criminals in this case,

- that knows that governments and corporations will not solve the problem of climate change but that it is down to ordinary people to find the solutions,

- that sees that we are living beyond what the earth's resources can sustain and need to create major social change to live sustainably.

BAA's legal action shows the lengths carbon criminals will go to defend their emissions. If you think that the likes of BAA and Gordon Brown give us any hope of a sustainable future then you can stay at home. Everyone else should come to the Camp for Climate Action from the 14th to the 21st August.

From the Camp there will be a day of mass action against corporate climate criminals on Sunday the 19th August.

The responsibility to tackle climate change lies with us all.


The time is here. Climate activism is kicking in. If we are to really achieve what we need to in the next 30 years, the first year or two's campaigning would look like, well, the last year or so.

Several articles have seen the parallels with the anti-roads movement of the 1990s. Every reason to ever be part of that applies here, and so much more. It is a lot bigger issue and a lot more is at stake, and time is a lot tighter. The incontrovertibility of our argument and the groundswell of public knowledge behind us is here too, just like in 1996. So much is within our grasp. Let's grab it, use it.

The Camp will be a big jump up for climate activism. But the movement can only succeed if it's a genuinely mass movement. It needs everyone who knows it's right to be not just onside and nodding at the TV, but out there taking action. That means you.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

turning up the heat at heathrow

British Airports Authority - operators of Heathrow airport - go to the high court tomorrow to seek an injunction against four people and the groups they represent, in order to stop them being part of the Camp for Climate Action.

Weirdly, the injunction isn't against the Camp, just against three groups who've expressed some support for it.

These are direct action group Plane Stupid, local anti-third runway group NOTRAG, and Airport Watch, an umbrella of various organisations such as the National Trust, Greenpeace, the RSPB, the Council for the Protection of Rural England.

This means all their members - some five million people - would be injuncted. Not just from a 100m radius of Heathrow, but from sections of the M4, M25, certain platforms at Paddington station and all of London Underground's Piccadilly line.

Transport for London, who operate the tube, have demanded all mention of their property be removed from the injunction.

Mayor Ken Livingstone called the injunction 'a serious infringement of civil liberties and an attack on the right to peaceful protest' and suggested that perhaps BAA's Spanish owners were under the impression they were still living under Franco. Others have also sprung to the defence of the right to protest.

BAA, sensing their foot-shooting, refused to talk to the press, but theyn issued a statement saying they didn't want to interfere with 'lawful protest'.

Thing is, there are already plenty of laws that criminalise anyone taking, planning or attempting disruptive action at airports. The injunction would redefine what counts as lawful.

It's utterly insane that if you're a member of the RSPB it would be a crime to have a balloon (one of the named prohibited items) on the platform at a tube station 20 miles from the airport.

The injunction is being sought under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, an anti-stalker law designed to protect vulnerable women from vicious ex-boyfriends. The idea that Heathrow - one of the most high-security sites in the country - needs such protectgion from peaceful protesters who've given repeated assurances they won't attempt any mass blockades of runways or anything like that - is ridiculous.

But this is where the battle lines are drawn. Aviation expansion is so extreme that it's BAA and the government on one side, and Livingstone, the RSPB and other such radical hoodlums with us on the other.

Most countries emissions aren't as bad as Heathrow's planes. There is no way Heathrow can operate at anything like current capacity without seriously contributing to climate change. BAA know that as the clamour to reduce emissions grows, so will pressure on them.

They see that organisations like the National Trust and RSPB are asking for us to do what the science demands.

The environmental groups' call will grow louder and more radical as the matter becomes more urgent; the drastic cuts in emissions are actually as reasonable as the National Trust or CPRE's image.

The attempted injunction is about intimidating those people and stifling not merely the right to protest but the demand that we halt climate change before it becomes catastrophic.

BAA's rabid defence of climate change is all the evidence we need that corporations and their friends and puppets in goverment are not going to solve the problem for us. We need to create a mass movement that pushes loudly, clearly and publicly for what we know is necessary. It's already well underway, and it needs everyone who knows the score to stand up and be counted. As the man said, it's a barbed wire fence - which side do you choose?

See you at the Camp.