In a written reply sent on behalf of Justice Calvert-Smith, he clarifies that the position of the court was that “although there may be occasions when photographing people might amount to harassment, it was certainly not the court’s intention to outlaw activities which do not amount to harassment.”
In a further turnaround, solicitors acting for npower have stated that it was never their intention to stop legitimate reporting of the protests surrounding npower’s controversial ash dumping at Radley Lakes, Oxfordshire.
However, EPUK understands that just three weeks ago, the same solicitors emailed the editor of the Oxford Mail advising him that the injunction would directly affect both what photographs could be taken and published by his own photographers.
How EPUK has covered the story:
16 Feb: Npower places injunction on EPUK member See here
20 Feb: The npower injunction in full See here
22 Feb: Revealed: the npower statements that persuaded a court to grant the injunction See here
22 Feb: Sqweegee: The law as an ass See here
The apparent change in position by npower’s solicitors Lawson-Cruttenden puts them embarassingly at odds with the energy giant’s own press office.
In correspondence seen by EPUK, Lawson-Cruttenden and Co, write: “Neither the court, nor for that matter the claimants, wish to prohibit any behaviour which does not amount to harassment.”
However, a spokesperson for npower yesterday maintained that the injunction still prohibited all photography of its employees and contractors, regardless of whether it was legitimate news reporting.
Yesterday, EPUK asked npower whether, given Justice Calvert-Smith’s clarification, that they now accepted that legitimate news photography which happened to include their contractors or employees would not be covered by the injunction. A spokesperson told us: “We are aware of the letter, but that is not our interpretation of what that letter says. We have asked our solicitors to look at that and see what the judge is referring to.”
When told that correspondence obtained by EPUK showed that their own solicitors concurred with the judge on this matter, the spokesperson said: “I’ll have to get back to you on that”. At the time of going to press, npower had not replied further.
Not a typical environmental campaign
On their website, Lawson-Cruttenden and Co describe themselves as “the market leader in obtaining ground breaking injunctions on behalf of individuals and corporations who have been the subject of harassment by direct action protest groups.”
They list their involvement in high profile cases, such as those campaigns where protests have been carried out by animal-rights extremists. These include Newchurch Guinea Pigs, during which the remains of a relative of the site owners was allegedly disinterred up and hidden; the Oxford lab protests, where some of the known protesters had convictions for terrorism offences, and Huntington Life Sciences, where the harassment included death threats and fake bombs being sent to workers.
By comparison, the most serious allegation presented to the court to support the npower injunction said that a security guards was hit on the leg by a van driven by a protester, although a separate statement records that the protester involved disputes this. In any case, the security guard told the court in his statement that there was no bruising on the leg afterwards.
The least serious allegation records a guard stating that he overheard a protester describe the private security firm as “the enemy”. In his statement he contractor told the court that this made him “only slightly afraid”
Unlike the above three campaigns, none of the principal six named individuals named on the injunction appear to have any involvement with any extremist groups. They included a vicar, and a 67 year old physician.
“We didn’t know Arbib was a press photographer” claim
Most surprisingly, npower’s solicitors have agreed with Justice Calvert-Smith that EPUK member Adrian Arbib should never have been served with an injunction. In correspondence obtained by EPUK, they say he was served in what they describe as “an abundance of caution”. At the time, Arbib was only the second person to have been served with the injunction.
They go on to add “When he was served, it was not clear to the injunction servers who he was”, with the implication that had they known he was a legitimate member of the press, he would not have been presented with the injunction.
Arbib produces his press card while being filmed by the Npower security guards
However in the video shot by Arbib at the time, a version of which can be seen at Sqweegee’s blog he can seen and heard clearly identifying himself as a member of the press as the injunction is served.
He can be heard telling the solicitors “Excuse me, I’m a member of the press…does that count for anything ?” . The solicitor replies: “I refer you to the terms of the injunction”.
After seeing a copy of Arbib’s NUJ-issued national press card. the solicitor attempts to cover up the lens of the video camera, saying: “You have been served with a copy of the injunction. You cannot take any more photographs of me”.
Damaging week for npower
The revelations come in the week where npower has faced its most damaging publicity, with the story being picked up by national newspapers.
In the Guardian today, George Monbiot writes that the injunction is further evidence of the criminalisation of protest. “The injunction was granted on the grounds that the site’s security guards were feeling threatened by the protesters. Many of the guards are former members of the armed forces….It seems to me that the security company has hired a bunch of right cissies”
On Monday, Duncan Lamont of Charles Russell LLP warned that “These unanticipated uses of the act could fall foul of article 10 of the Human Rights Act 1998, in being a disproportionate restriction of the right to free expression.”
Last week, the Oxford Mail reported on allegations that npower contractors had deliberately destroyed a swan’s nest at the beauty spot.
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