Prosecutors to drop 'significant' number of Fortnum protest cases

A "significant" number of the hundreds of cases bought against UK Uncut activists who stormed a central London department store in March are expected to be dropped, according to prosecutors.

Yesterday the hearings against the first 30 defendants began at the City of Westminster Magistrates' Court while 70 people demonstrated outside.

In total, 139 protesters face charges of aggravated trespass, but the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced it had plans to throw out a large number of the remaining 109 charges currently under review. The news comes a week after five cases against minors aged 15-17 were dropped.

Police arrested 146 campaigners after they occupied the Fortnum & Mason store, in central London, on 26 March in protest at the company's alleged tax avoidance. Scotland Yard refused to disclose how many hours of police time had been taken up by the case, but said officers from all sectors of the force had been involved, including members of the territorial support group and forensic services.

The CPS could not confirm how many cases were likely to be withdrawn, but said a "lack of evidence" and a failure to prove the charges were in the "public interest" would be the reasons behind any cases being discontinued.

Police looked at approximately 200 hours of CCTV footage taken from inside the store. A CPS spokeswoman said: "We expect there to be a significant reduction in the number of cases going to court."

Mike Schwarz, a solicitor at Bindmans, which represents around 110 of the activists, said "all cases should be discontinued". He said: "There is nothing significant to distinguish any one defendant from another. That is the nature of peaceful civil disobedience."

Raj Chada, a solicitor at Hodge Jones & Allen, who represents 20 of the defendants, said the conditions on which the 30 cases were chosen for trial were "arbitrary". The protesters were selected if they had banners, large quantities of leaflets, or if they had been involved in similar protests before.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence