Anti-cuts protesters convicted of trespass over occupation of Fortnum & Mason
Judge voices sympathy with demonstration and refuses to award store compensation for losses
Protesters whose occupation of Fortnum & Mason shut down the central London department store during an anti-cuts rally in March were convicted yesterday of aggravated trespass.
The 10 defendants were each given a conditional discharge and told to pay £1,000 towards prosecution costs. Speaking outside City of Westminster Magistrates' Court, they vowed to appeal and said they would "definitely" take part in future occupations.
District Judge Michael Snow, delivering his guilty verdicts, said civil disobedience had "a long and entirely peaceful history in this country and history often vindicates those involved in such acts". He added that the right to protest should not be confined to "anondyne or uncontroversial" acts.
But he said the sit-in at Fortnum's in Piccadilly, which was targeted by members of the UK Uncut campaign group on the day of a large TUC rally in the capital, had "overstepped" the mark.
The court heard that the protesters organised the occupation of the store on Twitter because they believed the company was "guilty of tax avoidance".
The demonstrators claimed they were "found guilty of taking part in a protest" and pointed to evidence given by police that the occupation was "sensible" and "non-violent". Euan Storrar, 24, from Surrey; Daniel Lichman, 25, and Grainne Gannon, 29, from London; Sebastian Jones and Oliver Pope, both 20, of Southampton; Adam Ramsay, 26, from Perthshire; Edward Bauer, 23, of Hampshire; Oliver Rodker, 42, of Manchester, and Peter Speller, 26, of Oxford, were all conditionally discharged for six months and ordered to pay £1,000 costs.
Jake Colman, 22, from London, who was already subject to a conditional discharge for a separate offence, was given a six-month conditional discharge, told to pay £1,000 costs and fined £215.
Judge Snow said: "The scene inside the store was chaotic. Protesters were shouting and screaming at a very high volume." There were chants of, "If you don't pay your taxes, shut you down", "Whose shop, our shop", and "Occupy, occupy, pay your taxes", the court heard.
The judge refused to award Fortnum's compensation, despite the shutdown costing it £54,000 in lost sales. A further £17,000 in damage was caused by people unconnected to the occupation.
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