The Just Stop Oil campaign is causing major disruption to the road network in London. This is in reality a terrorist organisation aiming to achieve their objectives by other than democratic means. But they now face a new measure to frustrate their activities.
It covers blocking, slowing down, obstructing or otherwise interfering with the flow of traffic onto or along or off the specified roads for the purpose of protesting. The roads specified include several of the Thames bridges and major arterial roads such as Victoria Embankment, Park Lane, Elephant and Castle, Rotherhithe and Blackwall Tunnels.
This is a good step to stop these unnecessary and disruptive demonstrations as breaching a court injunction is a contempt of court to which severe penalties can be invoked. Protestors can be arrested if they breach the injunction and held until they appear in court.
It just needs the police to take vigorous action which for reasons that are unclear they have seemed reluctant to do in the past.
The despicable activities of Just Stop Oil need to be stopped by all legal means possible.
In the South-East of England we are suffering from major transport disruptions. First from rail strikes affecting London commuters and second by the activities of Just Stop Oil on the road network.
The RMT union have announced further strikes on November 3, 5 and 7 and are balloting their members on pursuing them for another six months. I issued a tweet yesterday which suggested the way to stop these strikes was to give an ultimatum to employees to either work normally or get fired. The problem is that train drivers are so highly paid that a few days out is affordable.
Rather surprisingly I got a response from the RMT which said “In your haste to sound draconian you’ve not considered who would staff the railway or train the replacements if you’ve fired them all? Nothing would move for years!!”.
My response was “Well it worked when Ronald Reagan did it for air traffic controllers, did it not?”. This refers to the events in August 1981 in the USA. To quote from Wikipedia: “After PATCO workers’ refusal to return to work [over a pay dispute], the Reagan administration fired the 11,345 striking air traffic controllers who had ignored the order, and banned them from federal service for life. In the wake of the strike and mass firings, the FAA was faced with the difficult task of hiring and training enough controllers to replace those that had been fired. Under normal conditions, it took three years to train new controllers. Until replacements could be trained, the vacant positions were temporarily filled with a mix of non-participating controllers, supervisors, staff personnel, some non-rated personnel, military controllers, and controllers transferred temporarily from other facilities”.
The US airlines continued operations with minimal disruptions and the Reagan move had a significant impact on union activities in other organisations effectively resetting labour relationships in the USA. Strikes fell in subsequent years. From 370 major strikes in 1970 the number fell to 11 in 2010, and it had a positive effect in reducing inflation.
Just as Margaret Thatcher handled the coal miners in the UK, Reagan’s firm resolve on facing up to the unions created a new and better culture.
As regards the Just Stop Oil (JSO) campaign the closure of the Dartford Bridge created enormous traffic jams and delayed people for many hours. The whole of south-east London was affected as many people commute around the M25. The Metropolitan Police tweeted they had “made 404 arrests linked to JSO activity. We have needed nearly 5500 officer shifts diverted from local communities in London, to deal with the serious disruption caused by this activity”. The total cost including the delays to people must be many millions of pounds.
The Police seem to be totally ineffective in stopping the activities of JSO. People get arrested but then released. Fines, if any, are minimal. There is a Bill currently going through Parliament that might assist – The Public Order Bill – see https://www.parallelparliament.co.uk/bills/2022-23/publicorder . It creates a number of new offences relating to “locking-on”, obstructing major transport works and interfering with the use or operation of key national infrastructure. It also confers preventative powers for the police to search for and seize articles related to protest-related offences and provides for a new preventative court order, the Serious Disruption Prevention Order, to disrupt the activities of repeat offenders”. But will it be applied vigorously?
The Police already have considerable powers that are not used and JSO could be proscribed as a “terrorist organisation” as they meet the criteria. Let us hope the Public Order Bill is passed quickly. But it’s really down to the Government to take a lead on this matter even if they may be distracted by financial matters at present.
Peaceful demonstrations are OK but disruption to normal life should not be permitted under any circumstances.
A Judicial Review is a legal process that enables you to challenge decisions by central or local Government bodies or where the law may have been applied incorrectly by tribunals or other courts. It has been widely used of late by environmental lobbyists to challenge planning decisions but it can also be helpful on motoring issues. For example applications for judicial reviews have been made over Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) schemes claiming they are in breach of the Equality Act, breach other legislation or failed to apply the Regulations correctly. There can also be challenges over the failure to consult fairly when consultation is legally required on proposals before implementation. See this blog post written last year for some examples and possible legal grounds over LTNs: https://freedomfordrivers.blog/2021/01/27/legal-actions-against-ltns-escalating/
But they are not always easy cases to pursue because they are not judged on moral principles but simply on the legal technicalities. Cases can be thrown out before they are even heard by judges if they are not handled correctly and do not meet certain criteria. For example cases need to be raised as soon as possible after the issue comes to the attention of litigants or at least within 3 months.
A recent publication by the Courts and Judicial Tribunal entitled “Administrative Court Judicial Review Guide” is exceedingly helpful in explaining what is required and the process that must be followed – see link below. It even explains how “litigants in person” are supported if you do not wish to pay for professional legal representation yourself. And it covers the issue of costs which must be taken into account which litigants may need to pay (and the defendants costs if you lose the case).
Costs can vary wildly. For example this writer has been involved in two judicial reviews. The first was a challenge to the suspension of a hearing in a magistrate’s court on an alleged motoring offence when a key prosecution witness failed to turn up. This cost me less than £2,000 in court fees and my own solicitor’s fees. The case was referred back to the magistrate’s court when the witness again failed to appear so the case was abandoned.
The other was the challenge to the Government’s nationalisation of Northern Rock where legal costs of both sides were several million pounds. The court refused to overturn the decision in parliament by Labour MPs to force nil compensation to shareholders.
One can apply for a “cost cap” to stop the defendants running up enormous bills which Government bodies and Councils can otherwise easily do. And note that if a claim is over an environmental issue then the Arhaus Convention can be invoked to limit costs further. See the Guide in Section 25 for more details.
Although it is possible to pursue a judicial review without legal representation I would recommend that people contemplating a judicial review do take some advice from solicitors familiar with the process. It is particularly worth noting this statement in the Guide: “In judicial review proceedings, the Court’s function is to determine whether the decision or conduct challenged was a lawful exercise of a public function, not to assess the merits of the decision or conduct under challenge. It is therefore seldom necessary or appropriate to consider any evidence going beyond what was before the decision-maker and evidence about the process by which the decision was taken – let alone any expert evidence”.
In summary judicial reviews can be a useful tool for those challenging decisions of a public body but you need to adhere to the rules laid down by the courts including the timescales. The Guide is very helpful in that regard.