In the UK the Department of Transport (DOT) has used SLAPP tactics on demonstrators opposing a motorway at Twyford Down. When seven demonstrators were jailed for 28 days for breaking a court injunction banning them from protesting on the construction site of the motorway, they received favourable publicity and praise from the judge who stated that civil disobedience was an “honourable tradition.” However, the high court injunction is being used by the DOT to sue the protesters for damages and legal costs of two million pounds.
Under the terms of the injunction, those breaching it are held “jointly and severally liable” for the legal costs and for damages. Because others may not be able to pay this means, according to the defense counsel, Liz Loughran, “that a single individual, who may have been on the site only once... could be held entirely responsible for the two million pounds the DOT is claiming.” The threat has already had its casualties. One well respected campaigner who had been fighting the motorway for over 20 years, was able to settle out of court to relieve the anxiety caused to his family by the injunction, “on the condition that he refrains from further protest.” A similar injunction on Friends of the Earth, has caused it to withdraw from the Twyford Down campaign.
Another tactic that has a similar effect to injunctions is used in the UK and Australia. Protesters are arrested on mass and bail conditions are set that require protesters not to return to the site of protest. “In most people’s opinion it is the most effective tactic at stopping a protest. For months and months you are banned from protesting, and then when it finally gets to court, the police do not even bother to turn up.” This has been aided by the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 in Britain that makes various protest actions, such as trespass for the purposes of blocking development work, into a criminal offence.