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Reconsidering Sentencing Principles in Cases of Civil Disobedience: Cuadrilla Bowland Ltd and Others v Persons Unknown and Others
Modern Law Review  (IF1.779),  Pub Date : 2021-10-21, DOI: 10.1111/1468-2230.12704
Pok Yin S. Chow

Common law courts have struggled to offer a consistent basis for sentencing in cases concerning civil disobedience. This case note examines the recent Court of Appeal decision Cuadrilla Bowland Ltd v Persons Unknown, concerning individuals convicted of contempt for defying injunction orders to refrain from continuing their direct-action protests at a fracking site run by an oil company, with a view to immobilising its business operations. The note observes that the Court here offered a more coherent basis for sentencing principles concerning acts of civil disobedience and breaches of injunction orders. The rationales offered transcend traditional distinctions, relied on by some courts, between direct and indirect disobedience and between civil disobedience and contempt, which have brought about considerable analytical difficulties. The judgment further signifies a paradigm shift in the Court's approach to cases of civil disobedience – from emphasising ‘law and order’ to focussing on a ‘balance of rights’.