This week, HS2 Ltd took Matt Bishop and Joe Rukin to court as named defendants in a case to seek not just eviction orders for the South Cubbington Wood and Crackley Woods HS2 protection camps, but a wide-ranging injunction that would cover not just those camps, but a significant amount of additional land around Kenilworth, encompassing the ancient woodland HS2 intend to clear at Broadwells and Birches Woods, the recently planted Diamond Wood and the land connecting them up. Basically, everywhere in the video below, besides the railway bridge at the start which they had originally intended to chop down in September/October last year, until that was delayed by the Oakervee Review.
The bundles of evidence submitted by HS2 Ltd were as you might expect a rather incompetent joke. The had cited several ‘incidents’ which had come from their daily security log, which were easily disproved by simple reference to the Facebook pages for the two camps, which also demonstrated that HS2 Ltd had in several instances got the dates wrong in their supposed ‘daily log’. Though perhaps the greatest way in which HS2 Ltd undermined their own evidence was by claiming that the two defendants were permanently resident at the camps, but everyone else involved at the camps should be defined as ‘persons unknown’, as they had no idea who they were. There was just one minor problem with that assertion, the evidence that HS2 Ltd themselves had submitted included social media posts from named individuals taken at the camps, along with various press cuttings including quotes from people at the camps.
Much of the rest of HS2 Ltd’s evidence was laughable. At Cubbington, HS2 Ltd had cited incidents which the camp was able to demonstrate, through correspondence why HS2 Ltds own security manager, they they knew had nothing to do with the camp. At Crackley there were ridiculous attempts to fake their evidence, best demostrated by a cropped photo that tried to suggest protestors had used cars to block in HS2 vehicles, where a photo taken by the defendants of the same car in the same position but taken from ten steps back, showed that it was perfectly legally parked in a layby, and the problems HS2 Ltd have been having with access are purely down to the fact they have built a compound on a single-tracked road they had promised not to.
The Judge, Justice Andrews made specific reference to this clear attempt to fabricate evidence by HS2 Ltd, and other evidence along these lines from HS2 Ltd did not impress her either. Well, technically this was evidence from HS2 Ltd, but it had actually been submitted by the defendants, as for example the compound next to the Crackley Camp on Cryfield Grange Road was never meant to be there, which is one of the reasons that the camp was put where it is. A multitude of compounds have appeared in the Warwickshire area have appeared in the last six months, in direct contradiction to the 2013 HS2 Environmental Statement Consultation, promises made to petitioners throughout the parliamentary petitioning process, and most recently in the 2017 planning context reports. Other evidence presented along these lines included absolute promises from HS2 Ltd that certain roads would never be closed or even used by construction traffic, juxtaposed with photographs showing that they have done exactly the opposite, very much painting a picture that HS2 Ltd cannot be trusted.
Central to the case for the defence was that the camps were still there because HS2 Ltd could not be trusted, especially as they have been cutting down trees and hedges outside the construction zone and that they clearly wanted the injunction to stop people witnessing the crimes they have signalled their intent to commit, something that even the RSPB have agreed is the plan, writing recently encouraging the public to report any crimes HS2 Ltd will commit. The idea of an injunction would be to keep people far enough away so as they not only won’t be able to witness and gather evidence of the wildlife crimes HS2 intend to commit, but also so the public will not be able to prevent those crimes taking place in the first place.
This was perfectly evidenced by the defendants, as last year where the public were able to access where HS2 had cut down trees it was easy to find evidence that they had illegally disturbed birds during nesting season, as seen in the video below:
In contrast to that, at Newyears Covert in Harefield, a woodland which was covered by an injunction, allowing HS2 Ltd to take down thousands of trees in nesting season, with no-one besides their staff was ever able to get close to see if any nests had been disturbed, and the whole woodland and everything inside it went straight into the woodchipper on site.
It was this sort of record that lead the judge to comment that HS2 “Are not coming into this with clean hands” and when the barrister for the Government tried to dismiss the clear track record of HS2 Ltd by saying “If it is a case of either local campaigners over-reacting, or a Government-backed projected intentionally breaking the law, I think we can all agree it would most likely be the former”, to which Justice Andrews replied “You have far from convinced me of that point”.
Indeed, it was clear from the start that the Judge was far from impressed by HS2 Ltd, and ststed that there was no chance whatsoever, specifically that HS2 Ltd were “pushing against a closed door” in asking for a two year injunction, as she was not convinced that in the current climate HS2 would exist in even six months time.
However, while the judge was clearly not over-enamoured with HS2 Ltd, and at one point seemed like she would not actually grant the injunction, she was rather boxed in by legal precedent and HS2 Ltd would almost certainly have appealed if she had not granted the injunction. Because even though HS2 have a legal responsibility to pay for land they have taken permanent possession of and the law on general vesting declarations being quite clear on this point, that was not the issue, the issue is whose name is on the record held by the Land Registry, no matter if that land has been obtained fraudulently outside the powers of the 2017 High Speed Rail Act.
However, without even being asked, she removed the names of Mr Bishop and Mr Rukin from the injunction without even being asked to do, as she felt they were “Clearly responsible and law-abiding individuals”, and most notably, whilst HS2 Ltd had asked their pair to pay their costs, the judge awarded the costs the other way round, though HS2 Ltd have since refused to pay those costs in full (so please visit the Crowdfunder!!). HS” were awarded a nine-month injunction, which will kick in at 4pm on Tuesday 24th March, but have already seemed to have ignored a direction from the judge to make sure access is maintained to all the sections of woodland that they have not seized and do not intend to take possession of.