Why did police charge only 11 rioters over the anti-cuts protests?

MPs are demanding to know why the police arrested and charged so many peaceful protesters at Saturday's anti-cuts demonstration, while letting off those who attacked shops and banks and damaged monuments.

Demonstrators who took part in the sit-in at luxury grocer Fortnum & Mason, organised by campaign group UK Uncut, are bearing the brunt of police and prosecutors' attentions.

The Metropolitan Police detained 201 people on Saturday, as they battled break-away factions of activists targeting shops in London's West End. A total of 149 have been charged in connection with the protests – 138 of them (94 per cent) face criminal charges of aggravated trespass at the high-end store, with only 11 charged for the more violent protests elsewhere in the capital, including serious disturbances in the West End during which police were pelted with ammonia-filled lightbulbs.

Campaigners insist no major criminal damage was committed inside the store, whose management said the only physical losses from the protest consisted of the theft of an unspecified number of bottles of wine and champagne. The company said the closure of its business on Saturday afternoon had cost it £80,000 in lost trade.

David Winnick MP, a senior Labour member of the Commons' home affairs select committee, said it was "very strange" that protesters involved in the Fortnum & Mason sit-in featured so heavily in the break down of those charged. "The people who went into Fortnum & Mason were not involved in violence," he said. "They were told that if they left the building they would not be charged, and they were. Why isn't it that the large majority of the arrests were of people who were engaging in violence?"

The Green MP Caroline Lucas also criticised police tactics: "That the majority of those arrested and charged on Saturday were not violent thugs posing a risk to others but participants in a peaceful sit-down protest betrays a serious failure of judgement."

Raj Chada, a solicitor representing

several of those arrested and a specialist in public order law, said that contrary to normal police practice it appeared that suspects had not been formally interviewed about the reason for their arrest. Instead, detained protesters were asked a single question before being charged with aggravated trespass, an offence originally drawn up to deal with hunt saboteurs.

Mr Chada said: "The manner in which these arrests were carried out raises a number of serious questions. Is the act of conducting a peaceful sit-in protest now being treated as a criminal act? On the information that we have to date, many of these protesters should not have been arrested, let alone face the anguish of court proceedings several weeks away."

Organisers of the demonstration, who wanted to draw attention to the amount of tax paid by large corporations, claimed that protesters were "tricked" by police inside the store, who apparently gave assurances that anyone not suspected of criminal damage would be allowed to leave without being arrested.

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said the force could not comment while criminal proceedings were active.

Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
people
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker