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This open letter was published in the Guardian on Friday November 18th:

This week, the first 10 defendants from the blanket arrest of people joining the UK Uncut protest in Fortnum & Mason’s were found guilty, despite their actions being described by the senior police officer on the scene as “non-violent and sensible”(Report, 18 November). The judge ruled that the simple act of “demonstrating” is potentially intimidating, and therefore a crime. Read the rest of this entry »

Today, the 10 of us who were on trial have been found guilty of taking part in a protest.

A protest that was dubbed ‘sensible’ by the senior police officer at the scene.

We were standing up, or more accurately sitting down, against our government making harsh cuts to public services, whilst letting companies like Fortnum and Masons get away with dodging a total of tens of billions of pounds of tax every year.

Then we are put on trial, whilst it’s clear the real criminals are the tax dodgers, the politicians and the bankers who caused this financial crisis and who continue to profit.

We are supposed to have a democratic right to protest yet people like us, exercising that right and expressing our discontent feel the force of the law and receive harsh and disproportionate sentences.

We have been convicted of Aggravated Trespass, an example of a law created in the 1990’s as an attack on our rights to protest and which is used in situations like this one to turn protesting into a crime.

We will, of course, continue to fight this and will be appealing the judgement.

As the government’s cuts continue to destroy the economy and people’s lives we will not be put off by these attempts at humiliating and punishing us.

 
 
 

The defendants recieved ‘conditional discharges’ and fines, and a collective total of £10,000 debt towards ‘prosecution’s costs’.

You can donate to the campaign here

11/11/11 day 2 of the first trial
Report from the courtroom from an anonymous ‘Spartacus’

To begin with the court was adjourned until 11, DJ snow was at a meeting that had unexpectedly been brought forward. Some of the defendants were heading out for coffee when I arrived, but I’d just been through security so I headed up to wait in the lobby. A few doors down from us outside court five were the squatting activists awaiting trail. 18 of them are up, having been (link to video) arrested last week on charges of assembling without a permit within a mile of parliament (section 132).

The first swathe of witnesses consisted of customers who happened to be eating or having afternoon tea in Fortnum & Masons when the occupation began. Following the testaments of four customers the court adjourned for lunch, which was lucky because after that talk of afternoon tea I was famished. After lunch two witnesses who were working at F&M that day were called; both sales assistants.

We came to the end of the witnesses for the day, and the trial was ahead of schedule, what followed was a detailed discussion about ‘housekeeping’ including which of the chief police officers we’re calling to cross examine about their decisions that lead to our arrests . After some discussion around bad character the court was adjourned again so the Judge could read the associated documents.

The prosecution has requested that the previous convictions of some of the defendants in all three trials are disclosed and considered as evidence. They argued that these convictions are relevant to the case as they are activism- related. The judge somewhat surprisingly refused, explaining that he was not satisfied that any of the convictions give any propensity to commit this offense, as they are not sufficiently similar. In his words ‘this really comes down to joint enterprise or nothing’.

This is good news for us, but some of the 30  were chosen to be on trial – according to the prosecution-  only because of previous convictions, which the judge just ruled as irrelevant to the case! This highlights the injustice and arbitrariness of dropping the charges of many of the defendants while keeping some on trial.

This brief coverage from the event outside court on the first day of the trial proper asked people that question.

@robsafar

Report from the court room by an anonymous defendant.

Nerve racking morning, early start, with all the anticipation of an 8 months wait since being arrested but a big relief to finally be getting going on this.

The first day started off at fast pace, getting through the prosecutions opening statement and 4 witnesses, cross examined by the prosecution and the defence.

We began with an attempt by the prosecution to amend the charge, practically admitting that the case they had against us was weak and trying to reduce it to a lesser charge. The Judge, DJ Snow, explaining that this is way too late in the day for amendments refused this change! We then swiftly moved on for the prosecution to outline their case and called 4 witnesses, all staff of Fortnum and Mason.

Sitting in the dock behind the glass is not a great feeling, and it seems to me that the politicians and heads of business who collude to dodge £billions in tax whilst ripping apart our health service and education should be here rather than us, but feeling good about my actions 8 months ago and proud to stand up against this in court.

We’ll be publishing more details as the trial progresses.

RESISTANCE RIDDIMZ25th November: 7pm-1am

RESISTANCE RIDDIMZ brings inspiration and solidarity through a fantastic mix of talks, poetry, comedy, live bands, Hip Hop and DJs.

Go to the event page on Facebook

Heres an introduction to just some the people and groups that will be performing or speaking.. Read the rest of this entry »

Open letter to Mr Simon Pountain, Commander of the Public Order Command of the Metropolitan Police Service,

Thank you for your letter regarding the protest organised by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts on the 9th November 2011. I’ve been away and was actually unaware that the protest was taking place, but will try to attend because I believe that the economy should be organised in a way that adequately funds public services, and that enables access to higher education for all who have the ability and commitment, not just those whose families can find tens of thousands of pounds to support them through university.

The letter came as a surprise because it’s the first time I’ve ever had post from the Met – I assume you decided to write to me because I participated in the UK Uncut protest inside Fortnum and Mason. You wrote to advise me that “It is in the public and your own interest that you do not involve yourself in any type of criminal or anti-social behaviour”. I would greatly appreciate it if you could clarify what forms of protest you view as criminal or as anti-social behaviour. The Human Rights Act protects freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and I’d like to be confident in the knowledge of how I can exercise these rights.
Read the rest of this entry »

Tommorrow, 10 UK Uncut activists begin their three week trial at Westminster Magistrates Court over their alleged involvement in a tax avoidance protest inside Fortnum and Mason.

Of the 145 people originally arrested at the luxury store on March 26 this year, 29 face trials which will be conducted by the courts in three separate groups, ending in March next year.

The Crown Prosecution Service have charged all the defendants with Aggravated Trespass, alleging that each had an “intention to intimidate”[1].
Across the three weeks of this first trial Chief Police Officers will be cross examined and the defence are expected to challenge their controversial decision to use ‘mass arrest’ tactics. Information will be revealed about the alleged misleading of protesters by the police [2] and claims that arrests were made for intelligence gathering purposes [3], as part of what the protestors brand ‘political policing’. Read the rest of this entry »

(or did the MET Police simply forget that we have human rights?)

by MumsUncut

Some of the Fortnum 145 defendants – who are as I naively understand the law, all innocent until proven guilty (the trials start tomorrow) – have been sent this from Commander Simon Pountain at the MET Police: Read the rest of this entry »