High Court confusion over exactly who BAA wants to ban from protesting at Heathrow

By Martin Hickman

Published: 02 August 2007

BAA suffered further embarrassment in its attempt to block a climate change demonstration
at Heathrow, when a High Court judge admitted yesterday to being confused over
exactly who the company wanted to ban from travelling to the airport.   Amid scenes
of near farce at the Royal Courts of Justice, Justice Caroline Swift, asked Timothy
Lawson-Cruttenden, the lawyer representing BAA’s subsidiary, Heathrow Airport
Limited, to clarify the terms of the injunction he was seeking, stating: “I have
to know what I am being asked to do.”

Mr Lawson-Cruttenden said the company’s ban was only aimed at “protesters” who
were acting unlawfully, but was unable to clarify who might come into that category
under the terms of the injunction.

Four protesters have been named in the proposed ban, but its wording also includes
reference to the umbrella environmental group, Airport Watch, which includes organisations
such as the National Trust and the Woodland Trust.

Opponents of the injunction have claimed that up to five million members of environmental
organisations could be affected.

Campaigners also claim BAA has resorted to “legal bullying” by trying to extend
the ban to people using roads and public transport to get to the airport, even
including the Piccadilly line on the London Underground.

BAA says its attempt to ban the Camp for Climate Action, planned for August 14-21,
is aimed at protecting the airport and the safety of passengers and staff “against
the planned direct action by environmental activists”. Mr Lawson-Cruttenden insisted
BAA had not intended to bring five million people within the scope of the injunction,
saying “I never sought to injunct five million law-abiding individuals.”

He explained he was seeking a “hybrid” order that would mostly affect the four
named protesters, but seemed to suggest it would still have some sway over supporters
of their organisations.

He added that BAA was removing the Piccadilly line from the injunction.

Nick Blake, QC for the protesters, described the legal position as one of total
confusion. “This is a hopeless start to a hopeless application,” he told the court.

Martin Chamberlain, representing Transport For London – which is opposing the
Tube’s inclusion in the injunction – described its terms as unjustified and disproportionate.
Referring to Mr Lawson-Cruttenden, he said: “He had said the only people being
served this injunction were the four defendants but it was clear until we arrived
here today that the number of people injuncted included all the members of the
organisations named.”

Justice Swift said she was “frankly puzzled” and demanded a clear explanation
of BAA’s intentions when the hearing continues today.

In its evidence, BAA maintained that environmental protesters might break the
law and disrupt Heathrow’s operations and passenger flights during the planned
camp next month. Mr Lawson-Cruttenden showed the judge a video of coverage of
one of the protest groups, Plane Stupid, showing its direct action at Nottingham-East
Midlands airport which delayed 1,000 passengers.

Its spokesman Leo Murray was heard saying: “Their right to go away to Malaga
for a weekend on a short-haul flight pales into insignificance compared with the
threat of climate change.”

Mr Lawson-Cruttenden suggested direct action was a euphemism for what he described
as “unlawful behaviour”. He questioned why a wish-list on the climate camp website
would include items such as strong wooden poles, magnets, saws and axes.

Before yesterday’s case got under way, the judge declared she was a member of
the RSPB and the Council For The Protection Of Rural England and a benefactor
of the National Trust but she said she felt it did not disqualify her from hearing
the case.