St Paul's camp decision reserved


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The Independent Online

The High Court has reserved its decision on the City of London Corporation's bid to evict anti-capitalist protesters from outside St Paul's Cathedral.

After a five day hearing, Mr Justice Lindblom said he would not rule before January 11 on whether to grant orders for possession and injunctions against Occupy London.

The City has said there was an "overwhelming" case for the court's intervention because of the impact on the area of the camp - which has been in place since October 15 and now has up to 150 tents - and the risk it would continue indefinitely.

Counsel David Forsdick said it was not seeking to prevent lawful and peaceful protest, but the right to protest enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights did not justify a semi-permanent campsite on the public highway and, in particular, in a location such as St Paul's Churchyard.

The limited interference with the protesters' rights, which a requirement to remove the tents would entail, was justified and proportionate, given the impact of the camp on the rights and freedoms of others.

Michael Paget, speaking for representative defendant Tammy Samede, said the case raised an issue of "extreme public importance" and that freedom of expression was a liberty which must be jealously guarded by the courts.

He asked: "Should citizens be stymied when exercising their rights of assembly and expression under the common law and the Human Rights Act 1998 by national property, planning or local government law?"

He added that the camp did not prevent worship at St Paul's and any impact it did have was not solely detrimental.

"Politicians, members of the public and commentators have expressed support for the camp's presence and the sentiments behind it, at a time when there is a consensus that the issues raised by the defendants need addressing."