Important post-court case information

Terms of Injunction

From Sheffield City Council:

“Following the Judge’s judgement this week, could you please inform your supporters by social media prior to August 23 2017 that the council will continue to view STAG & protesters’ social media postings for the purpose of gathering evidence in case of breach of the Court Orders. You will recall that the Court specifically forbad Named Defendants and Persons Unknown to:
1. The Defendants must not, from 23.59 hours on 22 August 2017 until 23.59 hours on 25 July 2018:
(i) Enter any safety zone erected around any tree and/or;
(ii) Seek to prevent the erection of any safety zone; and/or
(iii) Remain in any safety zone after it is erected; and/or
(iv) Knowingly leave any vehicle in any safety zone or intentionally place a vehicle in a position so as to prevent the erection of a safety zone; and/or
(v) Encourage, aid, counsel, direct or facilitate anybody else to any of the matters in paragraphs (i) to (iv) above including by posting social media messages
within the area shown edged red on the plan attached to this Order (being, for the avoidance of doubt, the administrative area of the City of Sheffield).
Please note that the Council will also be filming any trespassing into safety zones with a view to submitting evidence in contempt proceedings in Court. No attempt will be made to film people peacefully protesting outside the safety zone.”

This information is being shared so that everybody knows where they stand in terms of ‘Persons Unknown’. 
Try not to be too downhearted about this folks. We ain’t beat yet.

Parking under threatened trees

Some people have been concerned about the implications of the injunction in terms of car parking. Both SCC’s response, from Steve Eccleston (Deputy Director of Legal Services), and the original email are below.

15:54 on 18/8/17

Dear Ms Hammond,

Thank you for your email. Paul said that you would be sending it in. I need to start by saying that I absolutely can’t give you legal advice on this issue. My role is to advise and represent the council. You should speak to your own solicitor if you want specific legal advice. What follows is based on my instruction to try and assist you in your query.

My first thought is to observe that it’s difficult to be completely prescriptive and account for every situation. Also to observe that I’m giving a legal answer. I don’t have details of operational issues, especially where they relate to Amey’s felling work. That’s their business.

The Council has powers to tow cars where Temporary Traffic Regulation Orders are in place and a car is parked in breach of them. The Council has powers to tow in these situations and should do so in my view.

The Court Order, however, is not related to this. The Court has extended protection to what it calls “Safety Zones”. That is the area established to facilitate a safe felling.

If a car is deliberately parked under a tree identified for felling so as to frustrate the work which the High Court has ruled lawful, then that become as a contempt of court. Upon identification, an application can be made to commit the owner of the car to prison for contempt of court. The issue is whether the car is or would be in a safety zone.

The owner of the car would be required to explain their apparent breach of the Order to the Court and, if their explanation was satisfactory, then no Order for Committal would be made. The Court Order makes it clear that the parking must be intentional. It’s very difficult to give an exhaustive list of what factors might come into play but I expect they would include whether there is a pattern of car parking which allows inferences as to intention to be drawn, the identity of the car owner and whether they are known to be part of the Tree Protest Groups etc. I expect that attempts would be made to knock on house doors nearby and see if the owner could be found to move the car.

Given the nature of the Court Orders now in place, I am of the view that it is incumbent on protesters to take personal responsibility for ensuring they comply with its terms. It is their responsibility to comply with the law. For example, if visiting a friend and parking under a tree outside their house then you can ask whether they are aware of any intention to fell. It’s probable that they will know as a resident. The car can then be moved to a place which would be lawful. It you are particularly anxious about the tree you’re thinking of parking under, then you might need to park in another street nearby where there are no trees to be on the safe side.

If it appears that a contempt has been committed then the council will be applying to court. Part of that process will be to give the proposed Defendant an opportunity to provide an explanation for their actions. If that explanation is credible then it is unlikely that Orders would be made.

I am of the view that you don’t, in reality, need to be too concerned with this issue. Every day, tens of thousands of people park their cars in Sheffield. Many of them under trees. Only a relatively small number of trees are being felled and people in the felling areas are notified when this is to happen. I am of the view that people going about their normal, lawful business have nothing to fear.

The High Court has now, after 3 days of argument, given an unambiguous view as to what the law is. The council expects protesters to comply with the law.

Yours Sincerely,

Steve Eccleston,

Assistant Director Legal Services
 Sheffield City Council


Dear Steve,

As per my conversation this morning with Paul Billington, clarification regarding the car parking situation would be appreciated. I explained the question to Paul, and he agreed that it was something that could and should be addressed.

We understand that where parking restrictions have been lawfully advertised as per the temporary TROs that are in place, that anyone parking their vehicle risks having it towed away.

The question relates more to the “opportunistic” attempts to fell trees, whereby crews check whether a tree is accessible and if it is, then they will fell it.

There are many trees listed for felling on many streets in Sheffield, and campaigners will find themselves needing to park on those streets. There is concern that if they unwittingly park a car under a tree that is listed for felling (e.g. if the felling notice that was attached to the tree has fallen off), then they could be found in breach of the injunction:

(iv) Knowingly leave any vehicle in any safety zone or intentionally place a vehicle in a position so as to prevent the erection of a safety zone

Please can you clarify how cases such as this will be handled?

On a personal level, I’m not familiar with every single tree that SCC want to fell in Sheffield. I would expect that I should be able to park under a tree, check that there isn’t a felling notice on it, and leave it at that. However, if that’s the only parking space available on the street at the time, will it still be assumed that I parked there deliberately or will you give me the benefit of the doubt? What level of proof would you expect me to provide?

If you can provide some clarification and, ideally, publish it on the SCC website, it would be appreciated so that people know exactly where they stand.

Many thanks,

Rebecca Hammond

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