National Highways use of injunctions


30 June 2023


National Highways use of injunctions

Our response to a column in The Guardian on National Highways use of injunctions published on 29 June 2023

Safety is National Highways top priority. We want everyone who uses our roads to be able to get home to the people they love and for the things they love doing. 

That’s why when protests started taking place on our motorways and major A-roads in late 2021, we were extremely concerned. Walking out into traffic moving at 70mph or climbing up gantries and other highway structures is extremely dangerous and reckless, not just for the protesters but also for the people using our roads.  

Entering a motorway on foot, unless in very limited circumstances, is an offence. In a bid to deter people from protesting on live carriageways, National Highways initially sought three injunctions from the court covering various stretches of the strategic road network, and subsequently obtained a further injunction covering highway structures on the M25. Anyone served with the injunction orders ran the risk of imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine if they were found in breach. 

A recent article in The Guardian suggested National Highways use of injunctions was ‘punishment without trial’, which we believe is an unfair representation of why we went down this legal avenue.  

The injunction orders are intended to dissuade protesters from risking lives, not to prohibit lawful protest.  

Is National Highways recovering costs of the injunction orders?  

It is correct to say that National Highways has sought to recover its legal costs incurred in obtaining injunction orders against those who are named defendants to that legal claim. National Highways is entitled to recover those costs from the defendants, and, as a Government owned company funded by public money, costs recovery is an important aspect of ensuring public funds are protected.  

Costs recovery also supports our objective to dissuade protestors from engaging in dangerous activities on high-speed roads.   

Costs awards are at the discretion of the court in all civil proceedings. It is commonplace for costs awards to be made in favour of the successful party. 

Why were individuals added as defendants? 

In court proceedings against person unknown, a claimant (in this case National Highways) is obligated to add categories of persons as named defendants within a reasonable timeframe. The category of person to be added is anyone the claimant (National Highways) is aware will likely breach the injunction (by virtue of their conduct).  

Individuals were added as defendants to the injunction as we had evidence that they had previously been engaged in protests on or near our roads shortly before or after the injunction order was made, and therefore posed a risk of breaching the injunction in future. That evidence typically came from the police – the defendants were arrested in the act of protesting on or near roads covered by the injunction orders.  

Was there “punishment without trial”? 

Every punitive order has been made following a hearing. With the exception of the initial emergency hearing, every hearing has been heard in open court. National Highways has gone to significant effort and expense to ensure all defendants have had notice of every open hearing which they were entitled to attend with or without legal representation.  

Where Defendants did attend (often with legal representation), they were given an opportunity to speak to the court and explain why they shouldn’t be subject to the order being made. 

What action is National Highways taking against those liable for costs orders? 

To date, National Highways has undertaken no enforcement action against defendants liable for costs. Defendants have been given an opportunity to explain their financial circumstances, which are taken into account when agreeing payment terms.