Judge rejects claims order will have ‘chilling effect’ on protest

Environmental activists who have cost HS2 more than £120m could find themselves imprisoned if they continue attempts to disrupt the project, after a High Court judge granted a route-wide injunction.

HS2 Ltd and the secretary of state for transport applied to the High Court for the injunction in March, after a series of incidents of alleged trespass and disruption.

After more than four months of deliberation, Justice Julian Knowles said he had been “satisfied that there has been significant violence, criminality and sometimes risk to the life of the activists, HS2 staff and contractors” and that “trespass and nuisance” would continue unless restrained.


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HS2 has said that protests at it sites have cost the scheme more than £120m

In his judgement, handed down from the High Court in Birmingham Civil Justice Centre, Justice Knowles emphasised that he was not holding a public inquiry into “the rights or wrongs of HS2”.

He said the right to peaceful protest were “not unlimited” and rejected the suggestion that the injunction would have an “unlawful, chilling effect” – as opponents had claimed.

“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,” he added.

HS2 Ltd, the company responsible for building the high speed rail line, has previously estimated that dealing with protestors has so far cost the project £120m and could hit £200m by the time the scheme is finished.

Protestors have used lock-on devices to resist removal from hand-dug tunnels near Euston and HS2 claims its security officers have been verbally and physically abused.

Other tactics have seen obstruction of sites by lying in front of compound gates and, in one case, dumping a boat in front of a site entrance.

The injunction bans 59 named defendants, including veteran activist Daniel Hooper, better known as Swampy, as well as four categories of “persons unknown”, from accessing hundreds of miles of land earmarked for the route.

The order covers people “interfering with” access to the land or “delaying or hindering” any HS2 work and breaking it would be a contempt of court, which could land activists in prison.

In a tweet, activist group HS2 Rebellion said the injunction was “another nail in the coffin of peaceful protest”.

An appeal against the injunction is reportedly being considered by the activists.

A HS2 Ltd spokesperson welcomed the judgement, saying: “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.”