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Ireland.com: Court told Shell ‘let men stay in jail’

Last Updated: 16/01/2007  17:24

Shell E&P Ireland allowed five men languish in prison for several weeks after the company had agreed to cease work on its controversial onshore gas pipeline pending the outcome of a safety review by the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, the High Court has heard.

The court was told it had emerged from documents that Shell had agreed with the Minister in early July 2005 to stop work on the pipeline pending compliance issues and the outcome of the safety review.

But it was only in September 2005 that the company applied to the High Court to have the five men released from prison, Ms Justice Mary Laffoy was told. The men had spent 94 days in prison before they were freed.

Such factors should be taken into account by the court in considering its attitude to Shell’s application to discontinue an action brought against opponents of the gas pipeline, a lawyer for two of those opponents said. He said Shell’s behaviour was relevant to his client’s counter claim for damages against the company.

Even if the injunction sought against the Rossport five last year was justifiable, and his side contended it was not, the imprisonment was too long, counsel added.

Shell today applied to Ms Justcie Mary Laffoy to discontinue its long-running legal action against opponents of the pipeline.

Patrick Hanratty SC, for Shell, said the action was no longer necessary and had become “academic and redundant” in light of its agreement to modify the route of the controversial pipeline following a recommendation to that effect by a government appointed mediator.

Mr Hanratty said Shell had written to all six defendants with an offer that if the counterclaims were discontinued, the company would pay their costs. Two had agreed to withdraw their counterclaims, while the remaining four had not.

He said Shell is making a conscious effort to achieve the maximum degree of consensus with local landowners and the community for the new pipeline.

Mr James Connolly SC, for the State, said there were “issues of public law” arising out of the dispute that needed to be addressed.

The hearing continues tomorrow.

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