Cases against 109 Fortnum activists dropped

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The Independent Online

Prosecutors have dropped more than 100 cases against activists who staged a sit-in at Fortnum & Mason four months ago in protest over the department store's alleged tax evasion.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has thrown out all 109 charges of aggravated trespass under review, leaving just 30 of the original 146 UK Uncut protesters arrested for occupying the central London store still facing court. The CPS said yesterday it was not in the public interest to pursue the case against the majority of the campaigners.

Police arrested 146 activists after they stormed Fortnum & Mason on 26 March during the TUC anti-cuts rally. Two cases were dropped and charges against five minors aged between 15 and 17 were thrown out earlier this month.

Alison Saunders, chief crown prosecutor of CPS London, said: "I have decided that the cases against 109 individuals who were charged after protesting in Fortnum & Mason on 26 March should be discontinued. However, we will continue to pursue the other 30 cases through the judicial process."

She added that the prosecutions were not in the public interest because protesters had not been involved in similar offences before, had played only a "minor role in the offending behaviour" and the court would be likely only to impose a "nominal penalty" on them.

Mike Schwarz, a solicitor for Bindmans, which represents about 110 of the protesters, said he thought it was "irrational" to drop cases against so many but to continue to prosecute 30 others, who were selected because they had banners, leaflets, or had been involved in similar protests previously.

Daniel Garvin, 26, who was arrested and detained for 22 hours in Fulham police station after the occupation, said, "If it's not in the public interest to prosecute me, why is it in the public interest to prosecute another 30 simply because they had leaflets in their bags?"