Polar bear Cairn activists win protest appeal

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Environmental activists have won a court victory over the occupation by “polar bears” of the Edinburgh offices of a firm involved in Arctic oil exploration.

Cairn Energy wanted a judge to grant a permanent order against Greenpeace International (GPI), banning it from involvement in further protests at the offices in Lothian Road.

To make the order, Lord Glennie had to be satisfied that GPI, the organisation’s international co-ordination hub in the Netherlands, had been behind the events of 18 July, 2011, when around 40 activists, some dressed as polar bears, invaded and ransacked the offices searching for Cairn’s “oil spill response plan.”

However, he ruled that Greenpeace’s UK “branch” was responsible, and that no order should be issued against GPI.

Previously, Greenpeace UK had an interim interdict made against it, and avoided facing action for a permanent interdict by giving a formal undertaking to the court which remains in force.

GPI Arctic campaigner Ben Ayliffe said: “We’re delighted this attempt to lump together two entirely separate parts of Greenpeace has failed. The idea that there was a grand and secretive global conspiracy between Greenpeace International and Greenpeace UK to send a group of fancy dress polar bears into Cairn’s office is ludicrous. The challenge now is to make sure that the far north is kept off-limits to the rest of the oil industry.”

The firm stated: “Cairn fully respects the rights of individuals and organisations to express their views in a safe and peaceful

manner but would be concerned with any action that represents a breach of security and may pose a risk to the safety of people and/or equipment.”

Arrests were made following the 2011 action, and the interim interdict granted to Cairn included a ban on publishing photographs taken by the activists of sensitive commercial information which would have been of value to competitors.

BPI denied being a party to the occupation and said the action had been undertaken by and on behalf of Greenpeace UK.

The judge was told that Greenpeace had national or regional organisations (NROs) in 42 countries, and GPI did not have control of them either legally or in practical terms.


Cairn maintained, however, that the occupation had been part of a GPI campaign, Go Beyond Oil, which had also featured activists suspending themselves in tents from a drilling unit off the coast of Greenland. Tha campaign’s aim, said Cairn, had been to obtain by legal or illegal means its oil spill response plan, and to end drilling in the Arctic.

Lord Glennie said: “I am not persuaded that GPI itself, as opposed to other emanations of Greenpeace, was directly involved either in planning the invasion of (Cairn’s) premises on 18 July, 2011, or in carrying out that invasion. There was no direct evidence that it was involved, nor was there any other evidence from which their direct involvement in the planning or carrying out of that invasion could be inferred.

“There was no evidence of particular individuals being involved who were clearly acting as employees or agents of GPI. The fact that GPI may have given advance publicity to the proposed action, or later rejoiced in what it regarded as its success, does not mean it can be regarded as having taken part in it.

“While I accept that GPI was a primary actor in the campaign, Go Beyond Oil, and that GPI had as one of its principal purposes behind that campaign the recovery of (Cairn’s) oil spill response plan, it does not follow that it is responsible in either a primary or secondary capacity for everything done pursuant to that campaign.

“I accept the evidence of Jasper Teulings (general counsel of GPI) that GPI is a separate legal entity from the various Greenpeace NCOs and has no power of direction over them. Of course, it may encourage them to take specific actions in support of a global campaign organised by GPI or rejoice in the fact that they do. But Mr Teulings’ evidence was that GPI would not normally do this except in support of an organisation that had not yet found its feet.

“Greenpeace UK, according to his evidence, and I have no doubt that this is right, is well-organised and perfectly capable of deciding its own course of action. “