Legal action mooted over City protesters

 

The City of London Corporation will consider legal action to oust the anti-capitalist protesters camping in front of St Paul's Cathedral, it announced today.

The corporation's Planning and Transportation Committee will meet on Friday to hear legal advice and decide whether to launch legal action to clear the demonstration.



Councillors will be briefed on the legal position at a meeting at the corporation's Guildhall headquarters tomorrow at 2pm.



The corporation called on the demonstrators to leave peacefully and said they were "damaging the integrity of their protest" by remaining.

But it will now consider mounting a legal challenge if they stay in place.



Stuart Fraser, the corporation's policy and resources chairman, said: "The long-drawn legal battle over Parliament Square has made it imperative to get the very best legal advice about how to keep the City's highways free of campers.



"That advice is now almost in place and the Planning and Transportation Committee could hear that advice as early as Friday. We must not pre-empt that committee's work.



"Of course, we fully support the right of people to express their views through peaceful demonstration, but no city can be a campsite.



"We hope commonsense will prevail and those camping around the cathedral will recognise that they are damaging the integrity of their protest by their actions - and they decide to disperse in a peaceful manner.



"But if not, we are looking at making sure we have the full range of options - including court action - ready to hand."



The protesters have vowed to fight any court action.



John Cooper QC has said he is ready to represent them.









Mr Cooper, who has previously been shortlisted for Human Rights Barrister of the Year by campaign group Justice, will offer his services free of charge.

He said a protester contacted him on the first day tents were pitched at St Paul's to ask for his help.



"The city first said the problem was a commercial one with businesses being affected, then they said the issue was fire hazard, now they are saying there is a problem with rats in the camp," he said.



The threat of legal action comes after the Bishop of London joined the row by calling on the protesters to leave.



Richard Chartres, the third most senior cleric in the Church of England, said in a statement: "The time has come for the protesters to leave, before the camp's presence threatens to eclipse entirely the issues that it was set up to address.



"The Dean and the Chapter, who are responsible for St Paul's, have already made clear that the protest should come to an end and I fully support that view."



But the protesters have vowed to remain, saying they find the threat of legal action "very worrying".



Naomi Colvin, an Occupy London Stock Exchange spokeswoman, said: "The overriding principle is a civil liberties one. The right to protest and participate in politics in a free society is sacrosanct.



"We are very keen to work with St Paul's and the Corporation of London to address their concerns. The channels of communication from our perspective are always open.



"It would be a shame if the Corporation of London were to launch legal action against a democratic and entirely peaceful protest when it's entirely unnecessary."



She dismissed health and safety issues raised by St Paul's.



"It has been demonstrated by various people that the health and safety concerns the cathedral has may not have much substance.



"We are concerned that any move to evict us could be the result of a political decision not related to health and safety and that would be very worrying."



Calling Mr Cooper "a good friend of ours", she said of the barrister: "We've been in communication with him. It's good to know he's ready and willing to help."



The doors of St Paul's have now been closed to the public for five days, but demonstrators say they are keen to allow religious worship to continue.



They are staging an evensong outside the church at 5pm today and will hold a "sermon on the steps" on Saturday.



"Representatives from many of the religious groups in London will be there. We've invited staff from St Paul's to join us for that," Ms Colvin added.



A Home Office minister warned today that if further similar protests took place the Government may have to consider taking on new powers to deal with the issue.



At question time in the House of Lords, Lord Henley said: "I think it is time for them to pack up their tents and go but we have no power to get them to go while they are on private land."



He added: "I understand the Bishop of London has asked protesters to leave and so enable St Paul's Cathedral to be reopened.



"The Government believes the protesters should comply with this request. The police are working closely with the Cathedral as they monitor the situation."



Lord Henley said the land the protesters were occupying was private, limiting the Government's ability to act.



"If problems like this persist and if we have problems that are likely to affect the Olympics or whatever, it is certainly something we will have to look at in due course," he added.

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Howard Marks who has been diagnosed with inoperable cancer aged 69
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
Rowan Atkinson at the wheel of his McLaren F1 GTR sports car
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us