The Jockey Club, owner of Epsom Downs Racecourse, has applied to the High Court for an injunction to prohibit acts intended to disrupt the Derby meeting on June 2 and 3. The hearing will take place on Friday, May 26.
The extraordinary move has been taken in the wake of increasing threats from the Animal Rising protest group which has already delayed the start of this year's Grand National by 15 minutes, and staged an on-course protest on Derby day last year.
An announcement from The Jockey Club states that the injunction would not hinder the right of anyone to protest peacefully, and that is has offered Animal Rising an area near the entrance of the racecourse specifically for this purpose on Derby Day.
“In planning for The Derby Festival our number one priority will always be to ensure that the safety of all our equine and human participants and the thousands of racegoers who join us at Epsom Downs is not compromised,” said Jockey Club chief executive Nevin Truesdale.
“We respect everyone's right to peaceful and lawful protest and with that in mind have offered Animal Rising a space for this purpose directly outside the racecourse during The Derby Festival.
“However, Animal Rising have made it explicitly clear that they intend to breach security and access the track itself in an attempt to stop racing taking place and it is our duty and obligation to do everything we can to protect everyone's safety and prevent a repeat of the illegal and reckless protests we saw at Aintree in April.
“As such the decision to apply for an injunction is a course of action we have been forced to take and is the result of careful consideration following consultation with Surrey Police and a number of stakeholders. If successful, this would be just one of a range of robust security measures we are implementing to ensure the event can go ahead safely.”
If granted, the injunction would prohibit individuals from invading the racetrack itself and carrying out other acts of disruption during the meeting. These include intentionally causing objects to enter the racetrack, entering the parade ring, entering and/or remaining on the horses' route to the parade ring and to the racetrack without authorisation, and intentionally endangering any person at the racecourse. Those found in breach of the court order could potentially be fined or given a prison sentence.